Services for elder abuse survivors are akin to an unfinished haphazardly executed quilt. Some squares made of fine silk, others threadbare cotton, and still so many others with squares missing completely. Services are unique to each community and vary greatly even within a single county. When I think about services for survivors of elder abuse I am struck by two things; how anemic the range of services are, and that the needs of survivors are a confluence of aging network services (e.g. meals and case management) and those that would be viewed as more traditional victim services (e.g. shelter and counseling).
For survivors of financial exploitation, neglect, physical, and sexual abuse, a good outcome is often seen in the context of success for a member of the elder justice intervention network and not from the survivor’s perspective. If the victim is removed from an abusive situation or if there is a prosecution, is often the measure of success. However, there are countless survivors, who this never happens for and who are not given access to services to help them recover from the trauma, loss, and general aftermath of such a life altering event. It is shocking that survivors of every type of elder abuse are not provided access to counseling services to process the feelings associated with being victimized.
Where to Seek Services: Start with your local Area Agency on Aging to find out what services are available, including mental health and social services, like case management, and meal delivery programs. Many of the services offered by the Area Agencies on Aging are already paid for by Older Americans Act funding, and other local resources. Local law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman (for facilities) are another good resource for services that are available to survivors. Don’t forget civil litigators in private practice. Be sure to seek a civil litigator who has a track record in litigating the type of abuse case you are dealing with.
Service Needs: The survivor must be at the center of service creation and delivery; every community must have emergency shelters that accommodate the needs of older adults, including wheel chair access and assistance with activities of daily living; access to and reimbursement sources for individual and group counseling services for survivors; legal services to assist with restraining orders, to change powers of attorney, to assist with debt recovery, and pro-per conservatorship clinics; research on the effectiveness of interventions; elder courts; case managers co-located at police stations to provide desperately needed social services to victims; benefits enrollment centers to conduct benefits checkups and apply for food stamps, and other entitlements; door through door transportation services; low to no cost personal money management to pay bills; resources to help pay for one time veterinary bills or sheltering for pets; peer support programs for those who are at continued risk for being scammed, and relocation costs.
Opportunities for Change: The Crime Victim Fund was increased earlier this year to $2.6 billion, that is a 350% increase from past funding levels, and it will take the voices of survivors, their families, service providers, legislators and policy makers to advocate for resources to be allocated to services so desperately needed by elder abuse survivors.
- Molly Davies, MSW, ACSW
About the Author: Molly Davies, MSW, ACSW is the Vice President of Elder Abuse Prevention and Ombudsman Services at WISE & Healthy Aging. She is responsible for leading the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program policy and advocacy efforts, serving the City and County of Los Angeles. Highlights include the creation of the Graduate student internship program, and the development of the ombudsman unlicensed facilities response. Additionally, Molly is responsible for the Elder Abuse Prevention Program including conducting training on elder abuse for professionals and consumers. She is also a steering committee member of the California Elder Justice Coalition and the President of the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Association.