Holding abusers accountable: An elder abuse forensic center increases criminal prosecution of financial exploitation

Navarro, A. E., Gassoumis, Z. D., & Wilber, K. H. (2013). Holding abusers accountable: An elder abuse forensic center increases criminal prosecution of financial exploitation. The Gerontologist53(2), 303-312.

Abstract:

PURPOSE:

Despite growing awareness of elder abuse, cases are rarely prosecuted. The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of anelder abuse forensic center compared with usual care to increase prosecution of elder financial abuse.

DESIGN AND METHODS:

Using one-to-one propensity score matching, cases referred to the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center (the Forensic Center) between April 2007 and December 2009 for financial exploitation of adults aged 65 and older (n = 237) were matched to a population of 33,650 cases that received usual care from Adult Protective Services (APS).

RESULTS:

1 Significantly, more Forensic Center cases were submitted to the District Attorney’s office (DA) for review (22%, n = 51 vs. 3%, n = 7usual care, p < .001). Among the cases submitted, charges were filed by the DA at similar rates, as was the proportion of resultant pleas and convictions. Using logistic regression, the strongest predictor of case review and ultimate filing and conviction was whether the case was presented at the Forensic Center, with 10 times greater odds of submission to the DA (Odds ratio = 11.00, confidence interval = 4.66-25.98).

IMPLICATIONS:

Previous studies have not demonstrated that elder abuse interventions impact outcomes; this study breaks new ground by showing that an elder abuse multidisciplinary team increases rates of prosecution for financial exploitation. The elder abuse forensic center model facilitates cooperation and group problem solving among key professionals, including APS, law enforcement, and the DA and provides additional resources such as neuropsychological testing, medical record review, and direct access to the Office of the Public Guardian.

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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.