According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 500,000 older adults are believed to be abused or neglected each year across the U.S.
To address this growing public health concern, a University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) researcher has been tapped by the U.S. National Institute of Justice to develop an elder abuse screening tool for emergency medical personnel responding to 911 calls.
The Institute is providing a $370,000 grant for the project to Dr. Brad Cannell, assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology with UNTHSC’s School of Public Health.
The new screening tool, called DETECT (Detection of Elder Abuse Through Emergency Care Technicians), will guide EMTs through an objective scoring model to identify warning signs that require referral to Adult Protective Services (APS).
“There is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with making a determination to report possible elder abuse, as well as fear of incorrectly reporting abuse,” said Dr. Cannell.
“Most cases right now are considered subjectively, with the burden of reporting on the medical responders. The hope is that DETECT will make it easier for first responders to report their suspicions to those who are in a position to offer assistance to older adults,” he said.
DETECT is first being developed for MedStar Mobile Healthcare in Fort Worth, Texas, the community’s primary 911 responder, and is expected to later be available for other responders nationwide, including police and fire fighters.
Dr. Cannell is collaborating on this project with the Elder Abuse Task Force of the Fort Worth Safe Communities Coalition, MedStar, Texas Adult Protective Services, and Dr. Jenn Reingle from the University of Texas School of Public Health.