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Multidisciplinary Teams

Since the earliest days of the field of elder mistreatment, it has been widely recognized that no one agency or discipline alone could successfully intervene. Most elder mistreatment cases involved more than one kind of abuse and contained interacting social service, legal, medical, psychological, and law enforcement components. The resulting inclination to work in a multidisciplinary manner has served the elder abuse field well.

Starting in the early 1980s, the original elder abuse multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) included professionals from different disciplines who came together, usually monthly, to review cases and address system problems revealed by cases. The teams reviewed cases of abuse, neglect, and self-neglect, and provided resources, advice, and new perspectives to the agency bringing the case for review. While outcome evaluations of MDTs are still lacking, MDTs proliferated and are considered a promising practice in the successful handling of complex elder abuse cases.

In the decades following the 1980s, MDTs evolved to address specific kinds of abuse, such as financial abuse, or to conduct certain kinds of tasks related to abuse, such as reviewing suspicious deaths. In the U.S., the following types of teams are in practice:

Traditional Multidisciplinary Teams

Traditional multidisciplinary teams focus on complex cases of all types of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect of elders, and possibly adults with disabilities depending on the state. Teams typically are comprised of representatives from the public agencies that investigate elder abuse, that is: Adult Protective Services, LTC Ombudsman, law enforcement, City or County Counsel, and non-profit (and occasionally for-profit) agencies that provide services to community-dwelling seniors.

Examples of these types of organizations include Meals on Wheels, care management organizations, home health care organizations, and senior centers. Some teams may also invite private professionals, such as attorneys or realtors to participate. Teams meet regularly, generally monthly or quarterly.