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Adult Protective Services in Action: A WEAAD Spotlight

Brought to you by NCEA and NAPSA

June 2, 2022

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), on June 15th, is a time for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older people by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. WEAAD is a call-to-action for society’s individuals, organizations, and communities to educate each other on how to identify, address and prevent abuse so we can all do our part to support everyone as we age.

Adult Protective Services (APS) is on the forefront of addressing elder abuse and neglect year-round. APS is a social service program authorized by law in every state to receive and investigate reports of elder or vulnerable adult maltreatment and to intervene to support survivors to the extent possible. APS programs promote the safety, independence, and quality-of-life for older adults, which ultimately provides us all the opportunity to age with dignity and respect.

This year for WEAAD, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) are teaming up to spotlight the remarkable work being carried out by APS to address elder abuse all year long. The following three extraordinary stories highlight what an essential beam APS is to support our communities.
Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC):

Shout out to all Adult Protective Service (APS) workers who demonstrated dedication and resiliency during the pandemic.  You were officially classified as essential workers and we all have always known that!

In the last two years, we’ve heard countless stories about the dedication and resiliency of front-line workers—hospital personnel, emergency services, teachers, store clerks, and grocers.  All these professions are well deserving of respect and accolades.  However, lost in the conversation has been the APS community.  During these harrowing times, when the population we served was faced with a crisis of fear and loneliness, APS staff rose to the challenge.  Abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation did not stop during the pandemic—to the contrary, the stress and isolation only further exacerbated these problems.  APS staff navigated these unchartered waters and continued the largely behind the scenes task of promoting the safety and welfare of older adults and people who are disabled.  They did so while their own work environment underwent dynamic transformations and pivoted with the changing course of the pandemic. 

At the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC), our staff grappled with a move from fully in-person, to fully remote, and then the eventual transition to a hybrid work model.  As we did so, the DPPC redesigned its database, revamped its training modules, expanded its workforce, reorganized its operations, and rolled out a new abuser registry initiative.  Our staff managed internal upheavals at the same time as tackling external uncertainty. They did so despite the risks to their own health.  They did so without fanfare.  They stood strong in the face of so much chaos and adversity to serve our mission.  Our APS community should know that while their efforts may have gone unnoticed on the evening news, they are certainly well documented in the hearts of those they helped.  We are all eternally grateful for all that you do.
Hennepin County Minnesota APS:

We are delighted to recognize the outstanding life-saving work done in March 2022 by LaToya Gaines from Hennepin County Minnesota.  She is a new investigator who, with compassion and patience, obtained a client’s agreement to go to the doctor.

LaToya Gaines was hired by Hennepin County APS in January 2022.  She was still in her onboarding training phase and hadn’t even been certified for Defensive Driving yet to allow her to transport clients. Ms. Gaines was assigned a new client in March for allegations of self-neglect.

After meeting the client, the APS worker felt strongly that the client needed to see a doctor and scheduled an appointment at the individual’s clinic.  On the day of the appointment, the client did not want to go in for the doctor’s appointment, but Ms. Gaines felt strongly that the client needed to see a doctor that day. After some time working with the client to establish rapport, Ms. Gaines was able to convince her to go in for the appointment.  Ms. Gaines had to contact the APS Case Aide to come immediately to drive the client to the hospital because Ms. Gaines was not yet certified to transport clients.  Once at the clinic, the client was determined to be so ill that she was transported to the Emergency Room of Hennepin County Medical Center and ended up being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.  The hospital social worker and Medical Director told APS that if the client had not gone to see a doctor, the situation would have been dire and possibly fatal.

We are recognizing the work of this employee because of her professional skills in determining that the client needed immediate medical care, her clinical skills in working compassionately and patiently in obtaining the client’s agreement to go to the doctor, and our worker’s quick thinking in coordinating transport with another member of our APS staff to make this happen in a less restrictive manner than calling an ambulance.  It is these hands-on experiences that make Adult Protective Services so effective.

North Dakota APS and the Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program and Turtle Mountain Tribes:

Kudos to North Dakota APS and the Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program and Turtle Mountain Tribes in their collaboration to build and enhance APS services for their elders. North Dakota APS (ND APS) partnered with the Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program (History | Spirit Lake Nation) and the Turtle Mountain Tribe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa Heritage Center - Home) to establish APS programs within each Tribe.  The goal is for both Tribes to have long term sustainable APS programs.

ND APS is a part of Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program’s MDT with an MOU for the group to be able to share state and local resources, discuss issues between Tribal court and state/local courts that may present barriers in providing support. The partnerships with the Tribes may translate to non-tribal land as well if a client is an enrolled member of a Federally recognized Tribe.

ND APS has reported positive outcomes in working with the Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program and Turtle Mountain Tribe’s APS programs.  There have been tremendous educational opportunities for ND APS to enhance staff’s cultural competence in working with Tribes.

ND APS and Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program recently partnered on a case with Spirit Lake’s Elder Protection Coordinator, Ashley Roulette, and Elder Outreach Advocate RaNell Cavanaugh, taking the lead.  They were able to successfully ensure the safety of an elder and provide the care needed.  Both NDAPS and Spirit Lake Senior Services Elder Protection Program utilized their unique experience and resources to provide culturally sensitive services. North Dakota APS is proud of this collaboration and has been asked to remain as a partner with both Tribes.
NCEA and NAPSA Thanks You
Thank you to all the amazing APS agencies and their teams for being an essential beam in our communities across the nation! Visit us to learn more about NCEA and NAPSA’s APS factsheets and briefs.

Visit the WEAAD microsite to learn more about WEAAD and for tools to get involved today!

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