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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
port and explaining the criminal justice system, accompanying them to court, arranging transportation for proceedings, coordinating respite care if the victim is a caregiver, and helping the victim file for victim compensation funds. It is possible that victim/witness professionals will be the first to recognize that victims are experiencing elder mistreatment. Accordingly, victim/witness professionals need to understand the risk factors for and indicators of mistreatment and to know what services are available for these victims. Elder mistreatment researchers should be aware of the existence of these victim/witness assistance programs, not only as possible targets of research in themselves, but as sources of information in other studies.
PROFESSIONAL SPECIALIZATION AND COLLABORATION
Many professions, advocacy groups, and other organizations are involved in efforts to prevent and respond to elder mistreatment. Although adult protective services is the backbone of the system, community-based interventions draw on the health professions, law enforcement personnel and all participants in the criminal justice system, the bar and other participants in the civil justice system, financial institutions, and many others. Increasingly specialized responses are being developed through targeted training and interdisciplinary collaboration. For example, efforts are under way in many communities to improve the response to elder mistreatment victims by educating criminal justice system participants about the problem, developing specialized investigation and prosecution units, enhancing collaboration, and reforming statutes and policies. Most of these initiatives are of recent origin and have not yet been studied in a systematic way.
Professional specialization is a critical feature of an effective social response to any emerging social problem, once the problem has been recognized. In its evolution as a social problem, elder mistreatment is now in this “recognition and specialization” stage. Specialized training of health care professionals, mentioned earlier, continues to be an important challenge (Institute of Medicine, 2001). In addition, the increasing numbers of attorneys specializing in elder law, whether working in private practice or publicly funded legal services programs, can be valuable resources in collaborative efforts to prevent and respond to all forms of elder mistreatment. Prevention is enhanced through adequate counseling about the potential for abuse of common legal planning tools, such as powers of attorney (particularly durable powers of attorney), joint bank accounts, joint property ownership, trusts, and wills (see Hafemeister, this volume). Collaborative ef-