Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL), a national leader in senior services based in Boston, has been recognized for its efforts to address elder abuse in a resolution of the Massachusetts General Court as part of the June 15 commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The resolution was presented by Representative Danielle Gregoire on Monday, June 12, at an Elder Abuse Awareness event held at NewBridge on the Charles, a Hebrew SeniorLife community in Dedham, Massachusetts.Elder abuse is a critical public health issue that affects millions of elders around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines elder abuse as “an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.” Elder abuse and neglect exists in many forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect and financial abuse or exploitation.HSL’s event featured a panel discussion with industry leaders: Rachel Lerner, HSL's General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer and Chair of HSL's Elder Abuse Task Force; Alice Bonner, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs; Betsey Crimmins, lead attorney on the Elder Abuse Task Force at Greater Boston Legal Services; and Cynthia Hutchins, a financial gerontologist from the Bank of America.Senior care facilities have a special role in elder abuse prevention and response strategies. The panelists at the HSL event offered four “best practices” that should be implemented to address elder abuse.First, develop a clear and comprehensive company policy about the prevention of elder abuse. The policy should be proactive rather than reactive to reports of elder abuse. Employees at every level should have with guiding principles to address elder abuse and a clear statement of intent and defined outcomes. This article from Risk Management and Healthcare Policy Journal highlights these issues and provides some suggestions for action at every level of the health care delivery system.
Second, staff should be trained to be sensitive to signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Use orientations and training seminars to clarify the responsibilities and expectations of your caregivers. Staff should recognize signatures on unfavorable wills, unexplained injuries, missing possessions or cash and change in mood or behavior, which are standard signs of abuse. HSL's blog discusses this further at this link: End Elder Abuse: 11 Signs and Symptoms.Third, staff, elder residents and facility visitors should be encouraged to report suspicions of abuse. Make it simple to voice concerns of abuse by promoting an open culture and hosting regular team meetings. Studies show that strong workplace relationships and informal channels for raising concerns are important factors that help encourage staff and others to report elder abuse. For a full discussion, see Risk Management and Healthcare Policy Journal.Fourth, internal investigation process must be clearly defined. Respond immediately to reports of abuse and investigate complaints by speaking to the individuals involved. Have open lines of communication with the Massachusetts Adult Protective Services and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs to determine whether an incident constitutes abuse and to define next steps. Contact information is available at Protective Services Program and Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Elder abuse reports may be made to the statewide Elder Abuse Hotline (1-800-922-2275), which operates on a seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day basis.