Secretary of Aging Hosts Roundtable Discussion Focusing on Elder Abuse, Protections and Supports for Older Adults

SCRANTON – Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Jason Kavulich recently welcomed state, judicial and local leaders at Telespond Senior Services for a roundtable discussion on elder abuse victims, the work currently being done by the Department to protect older adults, and what the Commonwealth could do to keep seniors from becoming victims of abuse. 

Secretary Kavulich led the discussion with the goals of bringing an increased focus on older adult victims, prevention alternatives and best practice standards in guardianship cases, and an increased focus on aligning Pennsylvania's practice with national policy standards. 

"Older Pennsylvanians have worked hard and have been active in their communities all their lives. They should live with the dignity and respect that they deserve, yet we see far too many become victims of abuse or financial exploitation by a loved one or someone whom they know and trust," said Secretary Kavulich. "By bringing together this group of like-minded leaders and experts, we can strengthen key partnerships and support innovative work being done in the Commonwealth.  These discussions allow us to focus on what we can do together and build upon the fresh perspectives changing the trajectory of elder abuse." 

Secretary Kavulich was joined by State Representatives Bridget Kosierowski, Kyle Donahue and Kyle Mullins; State Senator Rosemary Brown; Administrative Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, and Judge Lois Murphy, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, both of whom serve in leadership positions on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Advisory Council on Elder Justice;  Mark Powell, Lackawanna County District Attorney; Sara McDonald, Director of the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging, and Amy Grevera, Acting Director at Telespond Senior Services.

Following the discussion, attendees toured and received an update on the construction of Telespond's first-of-its-kind older adult advocacy center in the Commonwealth specifically designed to serve older adults who are victims of abuse or neglect in Lackawanna and five surrounding counties. 

Work began in the summer on the center, which will serve as a state and national model to assist elder abuse victims. The center will offer a person-centered multi-disciplinary approach to abuse investigations, care and treatment plans, and education for older adults while providing emergency respite and short-term transitional living space. The center will include four bedroom units along with a medical station, bathing accessibility, a lounge, kitchen area and laundry facilities for abuse victims. The center will be connected to adult day and personal care services, senior companionship, legal services, transportation and more.

Pennsylvania's Older Adult Protective Services Act (OAPSA) provides a framework for reporting elder abuse, receiving and investigating those reports, and planning to reduce risk to vulnerable older adults. More than 35,000 investigations under OAPSA are completed annually in Pennsylvania.

If you suspect an older adult is the victim of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, please call the Pennsylvania Department of Aging's Protective Services Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-490-8505.