Elder abuse shelter

Cincinnati Jewish retirement community’s elder abuse shelter service expands to Montgomery County

One of only six centers of its kind in United States

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Six years ago, the first elder abuse shelter in the country opened at the Riverdale Hebrew Home in Bronx, N.Y.

Last year, Cedar Village in Mason opened its Shalom Center for Elder Abuse Prevention, only the sixth elder abuse shelter in the United States.

Now, Cedar Village has expanded its Shalom Center services to residents of Montgomery County.

Carol Silver Elliott, CEO/president of Cedar Village — southwest Ohio’s Jewish retirement community — says Riverdale Hebrew Home CEO Dan Reingold inspired her to open Shalom Center. It was Reingold who pioneered the concept of the elder abuse shelter.

Carol Silver Elliott, CEO/President Cedar Village, Mason

“Dan was approached by Joy Solomon, an attorney involved in domestic violence work, who recognized that the system of domestic violence shelters that exists — while very good — does not meet the needs of older adults,” Elliott says. “Putting an 80-year-old woman in a shelter with mostly young women and young children — their physical, emotional, medical, nutritional, and social needs — none of those things can be met in that setting.”

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there were nearly six million elder abuse cases in the United States in 2010.

“It can take all the forms that any other kind of abuse takes,” she says, “from physical, emotional, social, sexual. And in most cases — it’s not every case — elder abuse has a financial element.”

Shalom Center offers the general community shelter from elder abuse and provides education on the subject.

“We have 162 beds in our long-term care building and our health care center, and we have 105 apartments. Any one of those beds, any one of those spaces, could be used as a space for shelter for an older adult who is in crisis.”

Cedar Village provides each elder abuse referral with a crisis stabilization stay of 90 to 120 days at no charge; during the stay, clients are integrated into the patient/resident population.

“They receive all of the things everyone receives here,” Elliott says, “the medical and nursing care, social work services, pastoral care, rehab services if they need it, nutritional support, and on and on.”

In addition to traditional services, elder abuse clients also receive social work services.

“We have a contract with (Cincinnati’s) Jewish Family Service to provide an enhanced level of social work services and we have a couple of attorneys who have been kind enough to volunteer pro bono legal services for those who may need legal assistance.”

From the time shelter clients arrive, Cedar Village plans their discharge to what Elliott describes as the least restrictive alternative.

“It is not our goal to keep people,” she says, “it is not our goal to populate our long-term care facility with folks who are shelter victims, but rather to help them find placement in the setting that is most appropriate for them.”

Since the Shalom Center opened, it has handled more than 40 referrals and three admissions. To Elliott’s knowledge, none of the clients has been Jewish. She adds that Shalom Center is the only elder abuse shelter in the Midwest.

“We don’t take self referrals but we will take them from anybody else,” she says. This includes clergy, hospitals, adult protective services, police and fire departments.

“Any professional in the community or any community member can call and say, ‘I think there’s an elder abuse case,’ and we can evaluate it.”

The Shalom Center began offering its services to Montgomery County in September, after a meeting with service providers and representatives of Montgomery County.

Mary Ann Hemmert, director of the Dayton Area Jewish Senior Service Agency, is helping Cedar Village spread the word about the center and has offered elder abuse assessment intervention to Montgomery County.

“We will collaborate with Cedar Village as a referral option and they to our services as the individual returns back to this community,” Hemmert says. She adds that to date, Montgomery County has made no elder abuse referral requests.

The second key component of the Shalom Center’s program is its role as an educational resource about elder abuse.
“It is really important for us to do outreach to the community and make sure people understand what to look for, what the warning signs are, where to go for help,” Elliott says.

In most cases, she says, the abuser is a family member; and most referred clients have been unwilling to come to the shelter.

“They are reluctant to break that tie with the family member,” she says. “And you have to sever that tie with the abuser if you’re going to survive the abuse. It has to get to a point where not only is it a crisis, but their fear is greater than their anxiety about losing that contact so that they become willing to make that transition.”

Elliott’s advice to those who think they are witnessing elder abuse: call Shalom Center.

“If you have even a question about whether what you’re seeing is elder abuse, just ask the question. Perhaps we can help resolve the situation before something tragic happens.”

Start-up funding for the shelter came through a grant from the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. Cedar Village has also used its Chai Hopes Fund to purchase clothing and personal items for abuse victims who came to the shelter with only the clothes on their back.

“We feel very strongly that our not-for-profit mission, our rootedness in Jewish values bring us to a point where it’s just the right thing for Cedar Village to do,” Elliott says. “And you know, when we first opened the shelter, I said to one of the staff, ‘I don’t know why everybody doesn’t do this.’ The reality is, it’s an incremental cost. I have that bed. I have the food. I have the staff. As Dan Reingold said to me, ‘Don’t do a business plan, don’t subject this to the regular process that you do.’ He said, ‘Just do it because it’s the right thing to do.’”

For more information about the Shalom Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at Cedar Village or to have questions answered about possible elder abuse, call 888-295-7453 or email shalomcenter@cedarvillage.org.

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