ing number of older persons who were unable to manage on their own and began to develop a new approach to providing services, which they called “protective services units.” It was an approach that would provide not only social services, but also legal assistance, particularly guardianship.
As a result of this interest in the 1950s, Congress passed legislation, as part of the Social Security Act, providing funds to the states on a three-to-one matching basis for setting up these protective service units. Some states took advantage of these federal dollars. In addition, Congress provided funds for six demonstration projects (they might represent the very first research on adult protective services).
One of those demonstration projects supported a team at the Benjamin Rose Institute in Cleveland under Margaret Blenkner and her associates. She matched a group of elders receiving protective services with a group from the community who were receiving traditional services and found that, during the grant period, those who received protective services had a higher mortality rate and higher nursing home placement rate than those who received traditional services.
But the advocates for the system went right ahead with their work in the Congress and in 1974, despite some of the findings of that study and five other studies that showed these protective services units to be very costly and of questionable effect (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1966), Congress amended the Social Security Act to mandate protective service units in all states for adults over the age of 18. The target populations were people with mental and physical impairments who were unable to manage on their own and who had been or were being exploited or neglected. There was a lot of criticism of these programs, partly because they were so costly and partly because they seemed to infringe on the rights of the elders.
Interest temporarily waned on adult protective services, but at about the same time (middle to late 1970s), renewed interest in elder abuse became apparent, in part due to congressional hearings (U.S. House of Representatives, 1978, 1979). At one of those hearings, a witness spoke about “granny battering.” The topic began to interest some of the members of Congress, particularly the late Claude Pepper of Florida. He and his Special Subcommittee on Aging sponsored other investigations and hearings, and there were, I think, two research projects submitted to the Administration on Aging for a discretionary grant that were of questionable methodology, but they did, at least, confirm that cases existed.
This congressional interest in elder abuse served to revive interest in adult protective services. When members of Congress looked around to see what was happening to these abused and neglected adults, they saw the adult protective service units and concluded that it wasn’t necessary to