NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine have received a grant for more than $2 million from the New York State Office of Victims Services to sustain and grow an innovative emergency department-based program that improves care for victims of elder abuse. The funds will support the Vulnerable Elder Protection Team (VEPT), primarily based at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s emergency department.
“We are thrilled to receive this support for our Vulnerable Elder Protection Team, which is making a difference in the lives of patients who are victims of elder abuse,” said Dr. Rahul Sharma, emergency physician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Our dedicated team is not only improving the quality of care these patients receive, but they are also helping victims access the support services they need. We believe this model of care is one that may be duplicated by other hospitals across the nation to help address the problem of elder abuse.”
Historically, incidents of elder abuse are underreported. According to a comprehensive 2011 study, as few as one in 24 cases of abuse against those 60 or older were reported to authorities. Launched in April of 2017, the VEPT program is a multi-disciplinary consultation service available 24/7 to assess, treat, and ensure the safety of victims of elder abuse or neglect. The program, which is modeled on techniques to safeguard victims of child and intimate partner abuse, empowers emergency department staff to respond to signs of elder abuse, allowing for better care and protection of this vulnerable population. Frontline employees, including physicians, advanced practice providers, and nurses, have been trained either in-person or online on how to recognize signs of physical abuse or neglect in older adult patients, and those who are in immediate danger may be admitted to the hospital until a solution can be found.
The program also enables the collection of forensic evidence and a mechanism for working closely with community, legal, and law enforcement authorities, when appropriate. The grant funding, which will be distributed over three years, will help the VEPT program grow by teaching in-patient hospital providers how to identify and respond to cases of elder mistreatment and adding specialized expertise to the team, such as a geriatric psychiatrist. The hospital’s VEPT services will also be expanded to other NewYork-Presbyterian Emergency Departments through the use of telehealth.
“With this grant, we will be able to enhance our system of responding to cases of elder mistreatment and further champion the safety and security of these vulnerable patients,” said Dr. Tony Rosen, program director for NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Vulnerable Elder Protection Team and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far and look forward to strengthening our efforts to best care for victims of elder abuse.”