Develop Prevention

By by Laura Mosqueda

Why am I hopeful?

I’m hopeful because I believe we can prevent elder abuse and neglect. There. I said it.


Call me crazy, deluded, Pollyanna, foolish, irrational or a wishful thinker. (Just don’t call me “Dr. Laura”, but that’s another story….).

OK. I admit that we don’t have much in the way of:

  1.      Great data
  2.      Great Systems
  3.      Tested interventions

On the other hand, here’s what we DO have:

  1. A growing community of caring professionals from a variety of backgrounds who are working every day on behalf of elders
  2. A growing community of older adults and their loved ones who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” (thank you, Howard Beale) (Network, 1976. Look it up, youngsters!)
  3. A growing body of evidence related to risk factors and associated factors
  4. Common sense
  5. The seed of a vision for our world to be free from elder abuse

So what’s it going to take? Can we really prevent abuse and neglect? What if each of us behaves just a little bit differently and prevents one older adult from being abused each year? Unified in this goal, we can prevent tens of thousands of elder abuse cases in one year alone. Here’s how I’m going to behave just a little bit differently: I will ask at least two patients a week about the risk of abuse in their home. I’ll ask if there is a history of family violence, if they feel threatened or afraid of someone, if someone is using their money without their permission, and if there’s something I can do to help them feel safer. What are some other ways to adjust our behaviors and prevent elder abuse and neglect?

  1.      Befriend an elder to decrease social isolation and vulnerability
  2.      Check in with an elderly neighbor you haven’t seen in awhile
  3.      Check in with yourself to see if you’re feeling overwhelmed and blue and are worried you might      take it out on an older adult you love. Ask for help.
  4.      Take the extra minute (or two or ten or sixty) to listen to an elder in a way that conveys      compassion and willingness to hear their story
  5.      Keep at it! Don’t give up out of frustration; righteous persistence wins the day.

Yes, indeed, I’m hopeful because I believe we can prevent elder abuse and neglect. I’ve made my pledge to work harder toward this goal. Will you join me?


National Center on Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Tools and Tips

Ageless Alliance United Against Elder Abuse

– Laura Mosqueda, MD

About the Author: Laura Mosqueda, MD is a widely respected authority on geriatric and family medicine, elder abuse, and care of the elderly and underserved. She is the Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse and the Chair and Professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She likes cats.


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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.