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Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy

Abstract

Despite civil and criminal sanctions, elder abuse is a prevalent, underreported, and underprosecuted event in the United States. Traditional reporting legislation and common law remedies have had minimal effect on the incidence and prevalence of elder abuse. The epidemic nature of elder abuse is projected to increase exponentially as the elderly population grows disproportionately over the next several decades. The fragmented system of detecting, reporting, and prosecuting this abuse across a wide range of medical and legal settings creates a poor structure to effectively allow a potentially abused patient to have his/her abuse circumstance communicated to the relevant parties to protect the patient, have his/her situation reported and investigated, and, if necessary, have the perpetrator brought to justice. Emergency rooms and other facilities where elders present for care should be staffed by clinically trained persons who have familiarity interacting with patients and providers across settings of care, and who are trained to detect and report abuse. Nursing case managers fill this role well because they are able to coordinate efforts among acute and long-term care facilities while also being able to supply patients with legal and clinical information about elder abuse. In addition they may support prosecution efforts through their clinical observations and expertise. Hence, clinical case managers are able to coordinate efforts lacking in the current system to effectively evaluate, report, protect, and arrange for relevant services for the patient. Through clinical and special training in elder abuse, nursing case managers can provide support to prosecution efforts against the perpetrators of this most egregious crime.

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