Elder Abuse Rising, but HHS has a Road Out

The Elder Justice Roadmap (Roadmap), a document designed to lead the way out of the devastating trend of elder abuse, has been released by HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The Roadmap is intended to address the reality that one in 10 Americans over the age of 60 are the victims of abuse or neglect. According to an HHS release, the government report is a guide that comes as part of a bigger movement from HHS, the DOJ, and private interests that appreciate the growing need to stem the tide of elder abuse.


The Roadmap focuses on identifying the problem, articulating priorities, and recommending steps to create change. The five priorities the Roadmap focuses on are awareness, brain health, caregiving, economics, and resources. Public awareness is a key component of identifying and remedying any instance of abuse because it is only through identification that a problem can be remedied. Because abuse is heightened in populations with dementia, the Roadmap suggests research regarding cognitive capacity and mental health is a cornerstone of a comprehensive plan to combat abuse. Caregiving, economics, and resources are all important components in the Roadmap to ensure that effective care and education are provided and paid for once a problem is identified. The Roadmap describes itself as a “strategic planning resource.” The document is not itself a solution, but is instead intended to advance the field and encourage change in the way elder abuse is addressed.

Broader Efforts

Government and private interests are working alongside the Roadmap to effectuate change. The DOJ has already released the first three training modules of an online curriculum designed to aid lawyers in addressing the practical and ethical considerations of elder abuse. On the private side, the Archstone Foundation has provided funding for a project at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California that is aimed at developing a national training program for elder abuse and neglect.

Public Effort

The DOJ and HHS are also calling out to the public to help fuel the progress that the Roadmap seeks to spark. First, HHS wants the public to become more educated about the signs and risk factors associated with elder abuse and neglect. HHS recommends a fact sheet published by the National Center on Elder Abuse as a good resource for learning to identify the various forms of abuse. Once abuse and neglect can be identified, the next step is taking action. HHS asks individuals who suspect a case of abuse or neglect to contact a local adult protective services agency. Phone numbers for state or local offices can be found at the National Center for Elder Abuse website, or by calling 1-800-677-1116.


  1. During my time in London (England), I spent three years (1995-98) living with and caring for several elderly people suffering from advanced dementia.

    I recently self-published the first book to tackle elder abuse, a short e-novella written mostly to raise awareness of how vulnerable many elderly people are to abuse and neglect from the people paid to look after them: http://www.amazon.com/The-Carer-novella-Scott-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00K7IW3ZA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Specifically, my care work assignments left me somewhat horrified by how infrequently my charges’ relatives visited them – as well as the clockwork predictability of these visits when they did come.

    Meanwhile, I was surprised also to discover my employment agency checked in only if there was an administration query, and even then only by phone. And medical professionals, such as my patients’ family doctors for example, never visited more than once a year and only for 20 minutes or so when they did call.

    This distinct lack of actual and day-to-day supervision – which I gathered from other carers is typical – adds up to very little in the way of checks and balances to prevent on-the-job neglect and abuse.

    The fact that I did not have to pass any kind of police check in order to sign up with the care agency – combined with the fact that this job tends to pay relatively poorly and attract unskilled people – in my opinion makes elderly people in this situational very vulnerable, especially when you consider how confused dementia leaves them.

    It is perhaps unsurprising then that elder abuse and neglect appears in the media with increasingly frequency – not just in Canada and the UK but across the developed world.