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Background: Elder abuse is a complex public health issue that is receiving more media attention. The National Academies of Sciences defined elder abuse as either creating intentional harm or serious risk of harm towards a vulnerable elder, or the failure to satisfy the basic needs of an elder and protect them from harm (2002).Lachs and Pillemer (2004) reviewed the clinical and legal reports on elder abuse and have identified five main types: physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual assault, material exploitation, and neglect. Previous research has demonstrated elders who have been abused to have higher rates of depression and chronic stress (Comijs et al., 1999), increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (Goldstein, 1996), increased helplessness, social isolation, and anxiety (Soloman, 1983; Booth, Bruno, and Marin, 1996), as well as decreased physical health outcomes (Lachs et al., 1998). Past research also demonstrates elders maintaining a strong relationship with their religious identity (Young and Dowling, 1987). Additionally, elders consider faith leaders at a high level of trust almost as important as the level of trust displayed toward their own family members (Daciuk, 2000).

Main objectives: 1.) Provide basic information on elder abuse in Connecticut, 2.) Assess baseline knowledge and attitudes of elder abuse among faith leaders, 3.) Identify existing barriers that faith leaders may face when they suspect elder abuse, and 4.) Create a culturally relevant tool for faith leaders to detect elder abuse. Conclusion: The faith leader surveys and the semi-structured interview data collected on elder abuse detection and reporting and elder’s faith experiences in Southern Connecticut, respectively, is critical information to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of elder justice. Future directions include pilot testing, reviewing, and eventually disseminating the Digital Detection Tool for Faith Leaders in Southern Connecticut to assist faith leaders in detecting and reporting elder abuse.

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Community Health and Preventive Medicine

Interfaith Approach to Elder Abuse: Developing a Screening Tool to Assist Faith Leaders Reporting of Elder Abuse