WASHINGTON – Elders are among the most respected citizens of tribal communities, yet even in Indian country their wisdom is sometimes trampled upon, while some face the horrors of abuse and neglect. With this problem in mind, the Administration on Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services has granted its first-time funding aimed at American Indian elder abuse prevention.
Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee announced August 26 two new grants totaling $761,000 to be awarded to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), including first-time funding specifically dedicated to elder abuse prevention in Indian country.
“Elder abuse is wrong,” Greenlee said. “To fight it effectively, we need to build and sustain research, prevention, law enforcement and services.”
Elder neglect and abuse is believed to be an increasing problem in some tribal communities, especially in those with high crime and poverty rates. The stresses created by these conditions are believed to contribute to the problem.
According to an announcement from the agency, a $561,000 award for the NCEA Information Clearinghouse will go to the University of California at Irvine: “The NCEA Clearinghouse will provide a national source of practical information to support federal, state and local efforts to prevent, identify, and effectively respond to elder abuse. The Clearinghouse will provide information and technical support, translate the latest research in the field, and disseminate best practices for state, local, and Tribal practitioners. The NCEA will also provide technical assistance on developing effective prevention, intervention, and response efforts to address elder abuse.”
In addition, a $200,000 award for the NCEA Native American Elder Justice Initiative is being granted to the University of North Dakota (UND): “The NCEA Native American Elder Justice Initiative will begin to address the lack of culturally appropriate information and community education materials on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in Indian country.” Agency officials said that some of the undertakings of the initiative will include establishing a resource center on elder abuse to assist tribes in addressing elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; identifying and making available existing literature, resources, and tribal codes that address elder abuse; and developing and disseminating culturally appropriate and responsive resources for use by tribes, care providers, law enforcement and other stakeholders.
“These awards demonstrate this administration’s commitment to addressing the growing problem of elder abuse, including the unique problems tribes face in preventing, identifying, and responding to elder abuse in Indian country,” Greenlee said.
A 2004 report by the NCEA found that elder abuse was “a growing concern in Indian country,” but found that little is known about the full extent of the problem due largely to a lack of study.
“Only three of the more than 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States and one urban population have been the subject of scientific studies, and even among these groups, significant differences have been noted,” according to the report.
A 2005 report by the Administration on Aging found a variety of reasons for tribal elder abuse, including a lack of respect, contemporary realities, and high crime rates on some reservations.
Beyond the Native population, elder abuse has been found to be increasing nationwide, and researchers suspect this is also the case in Indian country.