Elder Abuse Survey Expected to Reveal Gaps in Services
Last updated 7/28/2017 at 4:27pm | View PDF
A survey of senior service providers and senior care providers is currently being conducted by the Tulare County Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team and Adria Navarro, Ph.D., LCSW, assistant professor of Clinical Family Medicine at the University of Southern California.
"We are hoping that the survey will show us where the gaps in services are for elder victims," said Nicole Burnham, victim advocate with the Tulare County District Attorney's Office. "Hopefully, we will gain insight into what barriers elders have in asking for or receiving services."
Elder abuse is defined as neglect, financial exploitation, physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse of an individual age 65 or older. In over half of elder abuse cases in Tulare County, the crime is committed by a son, daughter or other relative. Many times, seniors will deny victimization to protect those family members. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that only one in five cases is reported.
The goal of the survey is to provide elder abuse victims with the assistance and services they and their families want and need. Information gathered will be made available to all organizations interested in providing elder abuse victim prevention and intervention services. Senior service providers and senior care providers are encouraged to take the survey.
"We feel their input is valuable," said Burnham. "We want to get a broad-based response from the community who cares for and provides for seniors, and what they feel the gaps are for elder abuse victims.
"While there are a great many useful services available to seniors and disabled adults in Tulare County, the Tulare County Elder Justice Needs Assessment (survey) will help us to enhance the response to victims by clarifying some of the main challenges and barriers that exist to receiving those services," she explained. "We will analyze the challenges and barriers to our providing an effective response to Tulare County elder abuse victims, and we hope the findings will help to prioritize issues of greatest concern for support and identify areas of improvement."
Some of the challenges that elder victims have shared is the lack of assistance with obtaining and filing elder abuse restraining orders. Currently there is a service provider, Central California Legal Services, which offers seniors legal advice and legal services. However, its services are primarily offered to low income seniors. Seniors who may not meet the income requirements are left with few options, which include doing the paperwork themselves or hiring an attorney.
"Seniors often request information on low income, affordable senior housing," said Burnham. "While there are housing complexes like this in our county, because they are few, the waiting lists are at times up to a year long, and in some cases seniors wait two or more years. Also, there are currently no emergency shelter beds dedicated to victims of elder abuse. This results in seniors sometimes being placed in the hospital until a long-term care facility bed is located. If the senior doesn't have a medical necessity for hospitalization, their admission can be denied due to lack of medical need.
"The city of Visalia does have a women's homeless shelter, and women seeking shelter can sleep there, but they must leave in the morning by 7:30 a.m.," she added. "They are allowed to return that evening beginning at 4 p.m. Where would an elder victim go during those 8-1/2 hours before they could return to the shelter?"
The Tulare County Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team includes the D.A.'s office, law enforcement, adult protective services, an elder abuse victim advocate (Burnham), healthcare professionals and an ombudsman from the Kings/Tulare Agency on Aging.
The Tulare County District Attorney's Elder Abuse Task Force is funded in part by a $400,000 grant it was awarded in July 2016. The two-year funding from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services allows the county to expand its efforts to protect seniors and broaden its community educational outreach.
The results of the survey should be published in the late summer, according to Burnham. The survey began in late April and will close on Monday, May 29 at 5 p.m.