Though precise definitions of elder abuse vary widely across jurisdictions, conceptually, elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. That, according to a report issued by Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging, is at the core of a series of 15 recommendations being made to the state legislature and executive branch to respond to increasing concerns about the growing prevalence of elder abuse.
The report explains that “it can be physical, financial, psychological, or include neglect or abandonment and it may take place in a home or institutional setting. Though often a hidden phenomenon, elder abuse is a significant human rights, public health and social justice issue that transcends race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, income and education levels.”
Earlier this year, the legislature directed the Commission to conduct a study” concerning best practices for reporting and identification of the abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment of older adults.” The report was submitted to the legislature, which convenes this week.
The Commission has also launched a new website focused on Financial Abuse & Exploitation, which includes a series video training videos and a range of resources.
Organized around the three areas of inquiry framed in Public Act 15-236, the report recommendations are:
To emulate national models for reporting abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment:
- Establish parameters for reasonable caseload standards for the Connecticut Department of Social Services Protective Services for the Elderly program (PSE);
- Establish an elder abuse resource prosecutor in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney;
- Conduct a Connecticut-specific cost assessment to better understand the personal and state costs of financial exploitation; and
- Evaluate moving to an adult protective services model, for adults ages 18 and older, rather than a model only for adults ages 60 and older, balancing the import of retaining choice and control with ensuring that access to protective services is not restricted by age.
To advance standardization and uniformity in definitions, measurements and reporting mechanisms:
- Conduct a definitional crosswalk among and between state agencies and national guidelines and assess where legal, policy and practice changes can enhance alignment;
- Have Connecticut PSE develop a strategic plan to develop national voluntary consensus guidelines that have been developed nationally;
- Have Connecticut PSE modify its data collection process and explore predictive analytics modeling to improve outcomes and quality, to align with the dataset to be collected nationally, and to develop more targeted interventions; and in the interim, have PSE submit a more detailed report to the Connecticut General Assembly;
- Require Connecticut PSE to develop an online training module for mandated reports on the role of PSE, elder abuse red flags and reporting procedures to PSE; and
- Develop training and resources for law enforcement.
To promote and coordinate reporting communication among local and state government entities:
- Have Connecticut PSE formalize a system for consistent and uniform follow-up with all reporters of elder abuse;
- Enhance training for Connecticut PSE social workers and utilize consultants with specific subject matter expertise to provide guidance on investigation in certain highly specialized areas;
- Explore promising evidenced-based assessment tools and service models to make informed policy and practice decisions about how to direct and utilize limited resources on behalf of adults who need them most;
- Pursue federal funding for enhanced training and services to end abuse later in life program.
- Empower and support multidisciplinary teams (groups of regularly-meeting professionals to handle complex cases of elder abuse), as well as specialized teams such as financial abuse specialist teams, elder fatality review teams, and an elder abuse forensic center; and
- Support continued development of Connecticut’s criminal justice information system.
Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging is a nonpartisan public policy and research office of the Connecticut General Assembly. The report indicated that according to a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, 12.4 percent of adults age 60 and older reported at least one form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse or potential neglect and 11.7 percent reported financial exploitation by a family member or stranger.
Connecticut is the 7th oldest state in the nation, based on median age. It also has the third longest-lived constituency, with an average life expectancy of 80.8 years for residents born in Connecticut today. The report indicated that the “vast scope of elder abuse is especially concerning in light of the significant adverse health consequences for victims.”
More than one-third of Connecticut’s population is over the age of 50, and that proportion continues to rise. Between 2010 and 2040, Connecticut’s population of people age 65 and older is projected to grow by 57%, with less than 2% growth for people age 20 to 64 during the same period, according to the report.