Preventing and responding to abuse of elders in Indian Country

Preventing and responding to abuse of elders in Indian Country

Assessing and preventing abuse of elder Native Americans

This project report aims to offer a greater understanding of the scope and nature of elder abuse in Indian country, how it is perceived, services currently being provided, and promising approaches to prevention. Existing research is sparse and the experiences of Indian elders with abuse, and their attitudes about what should be done about it appear to differ from those of non-Indian elders, suggesting the need for new responses to prevention.

The report includes recommendations on the following areas:

  • Needs assessment and policy development: tribe-specific needs assessment and planning should be the first step in developing abuse prevention programmes. Data collection methods must be culturally sensitive and appropriate
  • Tribal codes policies and procedures: the process of developing codes can be used as an opportunity for raising community awareness about abuse and services. Codes must include, or be accompanied by, policies and procedures that clearly define the roles of key agencies. Codes should provide for a team approach to assessing abuse
  • Coordinating services: tribes need to develop strategies for improving coordination among tribal departments and non-tribal entities that have a role to play in abuse prevention. Coordination among law enforcement agencies is particularly important
  • Issues around raising awareness: outreach should not just focus on reporting abuse. The goal should be to prevent abuse by reinforcing traditional values and beliefs
  • Screening, reporting and assessing abuse: in particular, health care providers who see elders in their homes on a daily basis need training in how to effectively screen for abuse. Culturally appropriate outreach is needed to encourage elders to come forward for help, and to encourage others to report.
  • Training and education for professionals and families: informal caregivers need training and education. Families need help to anticipate elderly members’ future care needs
  • Legal interventions - Western and traditional approaches: at the national level, tribes should be surveyed to determine what courts are currently exercising jurisdiction in elder abuse in order to identify gaps or concerns that need to be addressed. Research is needed to determine how legal interventions and arbitration processes on reservations can be made to be more effective in preventing abuse
  • Services to prevent abuse and neglect: caregivers need assistance in developing plans for providing care. Home and community-based long-term care services can reduce elders’ reliance on families. Many families rely on elders to provide childcare. Alternative sources should be made available when the level of care that is needed becomes a hardship for elders
  • Serving elderly victims of domestic violence: tribal domestic violence programs and other programs that serve Indian elders need to be made aware that domestic violence continues into advanced age. Forums are needed to explore how and when traditional approaches to justice can be used safely in domestic violence situations