Baptist Memorial Health Care Team Develops Elder Abuse Response Program
How Baptist Employees Work to Prevent Elder Abuse
Elder abuse, which includes physical, sexual, financial and psychological abuse, is more common than most people realize. Studies show 1 in 10 Americans 60 years old or older suffers abuse each year, and conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increase their chances of becoming a victim.
To better identify and combat cases of elder abuse, Baptist Memorial Health Care employees developed an educational curriculum for medical professionals. Ferrell Moore, clinical resource nurse, and Laura Brown, licensed master social worker, launched a multidisciplinary training program focused on protecting older adults.
Finding a Greater Purpose
Ferrell Moore never anticipated she would create an elder abuse program. But in 2014, when the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation asked her to help bring a 200-page grant proposal to life, she signed on to the project.
“They asked if I wanted to work on an elder abuse project,” said Moore. “I thought it would be a trifold poster or something visual to hang in a break room. When I received the grant proposal, I realized this was a huge initiative with a far-reaching impact.”
The proposal called for a curriculum covering the basics of elder abuse, including Tennessee state law and best practices in forensics, medicine, risk management and law enforcement. As a first step, Moore and coworker Laura Brown joined forces with the Coordinated Response to Elder Abuse.
“I went to the first CREA meeting and walked into a room full of people from all walks of life—social workers, police officers, the Plough Foundation—it was a comfortable, loving environment with people passionate about preventing elder abuse,” said Moore. “I knew I was committed to this project.”
Caring for an Aging, Vulnerable Population
Elder abuse prevention typically focuses on adults 60 years old or older who have experienced financial, physical, emotional or sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or caregiver. In some instances, older adults who experience mistreatment also report self-neglect. This curriculum trains medical staff to identify, assess and respond to abuse allegations and warning signs.
“The program is designed specifically for emergency room settings,” said Moore. “However, it is adaptable for clinical settings, the Memphis Fire Department and in-patient hospital settings. Because each entity has different policies and procedures, the final portion of the curriculum is customizable.”
According to Moore, the curriculum trains Baptist Memorial Hospital emergency department staff how to recognize and respond to situations that require safety and justice for elders.
“At Baptist, we make sure patients receive private, one-on-one assessments with medical staff,” said Moore. “If an elder alleges abuse or shows symptoms of abuse, medical professionals notify nurses, social workers and the CREA group, who provide the patient with resources or a safe place to stay until the perpetrator is out of the home.”
Expanding Elder Justice at Home and Nationwide
Since the project began in 2014, it has played an essential role in helping Baptist medical professionals intervene in elder mistreatment. The project increased awareness and knowledge at Baptist, and it helped influence core policies and practices. Moore believes the curriculum can make a difference for other local hospitals, too.
“Right now, with the help of the Plough Foundation, we’re working on an initiative that would leverage our curriculum to unite and train area hospital leads in elder abuse response and prevention,” said Moore. “It’s called the Shelby County Curriculum Committee. We invite area hospital leaders to embrace the trainings and help us branch out into the community.”
Moore and Brown aren’t stopping with the Mid-South. They have traveled the country, attended conferences and received several notable awards for the curriculum.
“We’ve been to Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and California,” said Moore. “What started as two Baptist employees and a grant proposal has grown into a multistate initiative. Our next step will involve working to develop a standardized model that takes this curriculum nationwide.”