Women Who Have Shaped the Future of Elder Abuse Advocacy
Every year, 10% of Americans over the age of 60 experience abuse, which can occur at home, in a nursing home or anywhere else. Fortunately, there are many people actively researching and working to prevent elder abuse of all kinds. Many people typically think of elder abuse as being physical, but there are other ways that abuse can occur; sexually, emotionally and psychologically, as well as neglect, self-neglect, abandonment and financial or material exploitation.
As the population ages, more baby boomers will reach retirement age, and this research and advocacy will only become more and more important. The following individuals have made an impact on the protection of the aging community in their own way – whether through research or creating awareness.
Kerri Kasem, daughter of radio icon Casey Kasem, founded the Kasem Cares Foundation after being prevented from visiting her father during his final months. The purpose of the foundation is to stop elder abuse and fight for visitation rights for the children of ailing parents. She was the recipient of a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for the foundation’s “dedication to fighting elder abuse and protecting the integrity of the family unit through advocacy.” Kasem Cares held a Conference on Aging in April of 2016 to bring together professionals and practitioners alike to exchange the latest research and information on the aging population. Topics included, “The Future of Aging: Innovation to Drive Change,” “Combatting Money Transfer Scams,” and “Red Flags of Elder Mistreatment.” After a successful event, Kasem Cares plans on hosting another Conference on Aging in 2017.
Susan Wehry, M.D., is a geriatric psychiatrist and a former Commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. As a nationally recognized advocate and speaker, Dr. Wehry has been working to transform care through her work and promote healthy aging. Vermont achieved top rankings for senior health in America’s Health Rankings during Dr. Wehry’s tenure as Commissioner, undoubtedly due to her contributions. She presented at the annual Maine Geriatrics Conference in June of 2016 on several topics. “Serving At-Risk Seniors with Compassion not Control” addressed the issue of the fear of loss of self-determination in later life, and “Assessing Decision-Making Capacity in Older Adults” was a workshop educating participants on the application of mindfulness-based approaches for the treatment of older adults with depression.
Mary Twomey, MSW, has experience consulting on elder justice issues and has written educational publications such as, “When the going gets tough: caregiving and abuse”. She worked as a coordinator of the National Guardianship Monitoring Program during her 11 years at the home office of AARP. Twomey originally became interested in elder justice issues after her grandmother had a stroke and came to live with her family. She describes her grandmother as remaining, “feisty and funny and independent long into her elder years.”
As an advocate against elder abuse, Twomey is dedicated to spreading awareness and has written and performed songs about elder abuse.
Shawna Reeves, MSW works at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco as the Director of Elder Abuse Prevention and has spoken nationally on innovative ways to prevent elder financial abuse. Reeves specializes in predatory lending, investment scams and reverse mortgages – issues which are not typically covered in discussions of elder abuse. She has also published many articles on elder financial abuse and uses social media to raise awareness about these issues.
Through the work of these advocates, we can hope to see a positive change in the care of the elderly. It is important to spread awareness and education of all types of elder abuse so that our family members and members of our communities will feel safe during their later years.