By Nicole Palmateer Hazelbaker, Oregon Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Oregon’s Department of Human Services recently released their annual report on adult abuse reports a disturbing increase in community based abuse of vulnerable adults. Finding community based solutions to combat this increase must be a priority for our state.
The Gatekeeper program is an evidence based, proven program that helps to lower abuse and neglect in a community.
Gatekeeper was created to help individuals who need help but may be unable to find that help on their own. A Gatekeeper is an individual who, during the normal course of their job or day, would have contact with a vulnerable individuals.Gatekeepers receive training on danger signs that could indicate potential abuse or neglect – and how to make the right referral for help should thee signs be evident.
Abuse comes at a high cost to us all. Studies show that seniors who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death compared to those not mistreated. Elder financial abuse costs older Americans $2.9 billion per year.
The direct medical cost associated with violent injuries to older adults are estimated to add over $5.3 billion to the nation’s annual health expenditures. Research also suggests that victims of elder abuse may be four times more likely to be admitted to a nursing home and three times more likely to be admitted to a hospital.
Since the gatekeeper initiative began statewide, over 8,000 individuals have participated in Gatekeeper training and over 400 calls were referred to Adult Protective Services indicating possible abuse or neglect. Oregon’s Legislature discontinued funding for Gatekeeper for the 2015-2017 biennium. With the rising rates of community abuse, the Gatekeeper program is a wise investment to help decrease rates of abuse and neglect for our communities’ seniors and people with disabilities. During the February 2016 Legislative session, there is an opportunity to restore $850,000 in funding for the Gatekeeper program to increase the safety and independence for our vulnerable adults.