Home Health & Hospice

DOJ and HHS release roadmap to combat elder abuse

Homecare Insider, July 14, 2014

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a new tool intended to help care providers, policy makers, educators, and researchers prevent and fight elder abuse.

The Elder Justice Roadmap, billed as “a strategic planning resource by the field for the field,” is the organizations’ response to the myriad types of elder abuse—physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation—that affect about five million Americans each year. Although estimates suggest that such abuse can amount to billions of dollars in losses for victims annually, only one in 24 cases is reported to authorities. Homecare patients may have an especially high risk, as one out of every 10 people ages 60 and older who live at home suffers from abuse.

To combat the pervasiveness of elder abuse, the roadmap prioritizes five key considerations that are “critical … to promoting health, independence, and justice for older adults”: awareness, brain health, caregiving, economics, and resources.
 
The roadmap also includes expert recommendations based on identified action items, which are categorized by the urgency of the item and which domain(s) it affects. Recommendations surrounding homecare include:
 
  • Increase education, training, supervision, and incentives for homecare staff (e.g. through surveys, certifications, state licensing agencies, and the implementation of fair pay rates) to bolster knowledge of how to prevent, identify, report, and respond to instances of elder abuse
  • Implement federal and state standards, as well as new policies that target elder abuse in homecare
  • Increase support for patients (e.g. through access to long-term care ombudsmen)
  • Identify and implement policies surrounding transitions that might heighten the risk of elder abuse (e.g. a patient's move from a rehabilitation facility or hospital to homecare)

To create the 40-page document, researchers used a multi-phased process that included soliciting the perspectives of 750 stakeholders and conducting interviews based on topics identified as essential to providing quality care.