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Headshot of author Julie SchoenWorld Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2019- Lifting Up Voices

by Julie Schoen, National Center on Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) has a broad perspective on the ever changing, ever engaging social justice issue of elder abuse.  The NCEA provides the latest information regarding research, training, best practices, news and resources on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation to professionals and the public.

The underlining theme of this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is Building Strong Support for Elders and we have an enhanced theme this year of “Lifting Up Voices”.  The intent of this theme is to really take a moment and hear what those who have experienced abuse want us to know.  From their voices we are able to learn, grow and innovate interventions and solutions to end abuse.  It is also important for us to work collaboratively.  NCEA recognizes that at the government, societal, and individual level we must collectively increase efforts to ensure that all older adults age with dignity and honor.  We invite you to explore our latest initiative, Support and Tools for Elder Abuse Prevention (STEAP) for customizable materials that anyone can use to promote awareness on the topic.

WEAAD is also a great opportunity to lift up and honor those who are on the front lines, the adult protective services (APS) workers and also long-term care ombudsman.  Too often we read media stories and jump to conclusions concerning the accounting of a horrific instance of abuse and an accusatory finger pointed toward the “failed” APS system.  What is not discussed, revered and uplifted are the countless silent stories of the men and woman who answer the call of the older adult, listen to them, provide them information, resources and services that change their lives.

We tend to forget that APS workers do not have magic wands to turn dysfunctional family situations into a loving compassionate tableau.  We forget that there is the very profound right for each of us to make our own decisions, good as well as bad.  APS workers walk that fine line between safety and self-determination and give the older adult every opportunity to remain as independent as possible, because isn’t that what we all want and expect?
Much is being done to help analyze the work of APS and provide guidance and materials to assist them in doing their work.  The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has established  the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) to accept, validate, store and process data from states. In the pilot project for NAMRS, WRMA worked with states to map and transform data from their APS systems to the common data set and to submit that data via the NAMRS system.  We also now have the APS Technical Assistance Resource Center to enhance the effectiveness of APS programs in improving the safety and wellbeing of adult victims of maltreatment.

We know there are readers out there who are thinking APS failed me, or my family, your stories and voices are also valuable.  They help us to learn and grow.  So as we work together to build strong supports for older adults, let’s take a moment to understand that we are all better together. That we should celebrate the small successes as well as figure out how to improve when things don’t go as planned.  Let’s take a moment this WEAAD and recognize the contributions of APS workers as they are truly the individuals that listen and lift up the voices of their older adult and disabled clients daily. 

Read more about how APS can promote World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Please take a moment to take a look at the resources we have created with our partners at National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) for more information, parameters and resources.

Safe Exit