The Local Effort to Make the Public Aware of Elder Abuse

In a recent post on this blog, we focused on the problem of Elder Abuse.

Older people can suffer from abuse at the hands of family members, neighbors, friends and even caregivers. They frequently are frail – physically or mentally – and cannot defend themselves.

This problem is not new. Older people have been victims of abuse for years. What is new is the public was not aware of how widespread or how serious the problem actually was.

This is changing. There is more information about it now than ever before. The public is being trained in how to spot signs of Elder Abuse and what to do when they see it occurring.

Concerned Parties Get Involved

In 2015, interested parties realized Knoxville and Knox County were not exempt from Elder Abuse. It was occurring just as frequently here as it was in other parts of the state and the country. They realized they needed to get their hands around the problem.

That led the Knoxville Police Department to request a grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. A grant of $350,000 was received. It was to be used for 3 purposes:

  1. Train law enforcement officers in Knoxville and Knox County, prosecutors, judges and community service providers on how to recognize cases of elder abuse and how to handle them,
  2. Establish a Coordinated Community Response team. This team was to work on the issues around Elder Abuse such as safe housing, abuse by care givers, awareness of existing resources and shelters for victims. The team also decided to develop materials to educate the public on the problem of elder abuse and what to do when they saw cases of it, and
  3. Assign a case worker at the Office on Aging of the Knoxville Knox County Community Action Committee to work with elder abuse victims long term.

The grant was to cover work for 3 years. It commenced in October of 2015 and ends in September of 2018.

Progress So Far

Work started immediately and the objectives set are being realized.

An 8 hour training program was provided for law enforcement people. 1 trainer from the police department, the district attorney’s office, the Helen Ross McNabb Center and Adult Protective Services conduct each session.

Thus far they have completed training of over 300 Law Enforcement officers in the Knoxville Police Department. They have trained the prosecutors. They will train the law enforcement officers in the sheriff’s office, judges, and community service providers by 2018.

The Coordinated Community Response team started meeting in August of 2016. The team has met monthly since then.

  • Their first job was to get a true picture of the problem with Elder Abuse in the local area. They have surveyed older people and community partners to do this.
  • Then they started discussing ways to address each of the problems identified.
  • Third, they have focused their time on overseeing the development of educational materials. These help the public become familiar with the problem. They also let them know how to respond when they see older people being abused. These educational pieces stress the importance of compassion for victims and accountability for all offenders.
  • They then decided how to get these materials into the hands of the right people. So, they’re being made available to senior networking groups, churches, community centers and the local senior centers.
  • Last, they have begun discussing how to increase the amount of safe and affordable housing options for victims.

A case worker has yet to be hired. This case worker will be on the staff of Project LIVE at the Office on Aging. Project LIVE estimates that the caseworker’s initial case load will be 20 to 25 cases. The caseworker’s job will be to work directly with each abuse victim long term and help them rebuild their lives.

If a victim needs to find a new place to live quickly, the case worker will work to find them shelter. They then will help them transition to more long-term housing.

They will assist them with their transportation needs.

The case worker will also assist them in the healing of their physical, mental and emotional scars.

The case worker will work with community resources to address the needs each victim may have. Some of these resources are the Helen Ross McNabb Center, the Family Justice Center, Adult Protective Services and the District Attorney’s office.

Going Forward

Although the program ends in 2018, the work being done on the problem of Elder Abuse will not stop.

The Community Coordinated Response team expects various community services and agencies to continue to educate the public and offer existing programs to assist victims.

The case worker will continue to work with abuse victims and help them rebuild their lives with the help of community resources who are skilled at doing this.

The elderly community is grateful for the work of those interested parties in Knoxville and Knox County in 2015. They realized there was a significant problem with Elder Abuse. They were instrumental in doing the groundwork to focus on the problem of Elder Abuse and to put in place the services needed to address it.