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Research Questions

  1. What are the central tenants of the Elder Abuse Shelter (EAS) model implemented by the Weinberg Center for Elder Justice?
  2. Is the Weinberg Center's EAS prepared to face a rigorous evaluation of its effectiveness?
  3. What are possible rigorous research design options for EAS models?

As the number of older adults in the United States increases, there will be a corresponding increase in the need for services to prevent elder abuse and intervene in cases where it has already occurred. However, there are a limited number of evidence-based interventions to support victims of elder abuse. To encourage the rigorous evaluation of one intervention—Elder Abuse Shelters (EASs)—RAND researchers developed three research designs and assessed the preparedness of the well-established Weinberg Center's EAS in New York to undertake them. Researchers found that the Weinberg Center's EAS is well established, and the program model was organizationally and programmatically ready to be evaluated, though data collection practices should be strengthened before implementing the suggested evaluation designs. These evaluation designs could be generalized and implemented at EASs across the country as the number of shelters continues to grow.

Key Findings

  • The Weinberg Center's client numbers have fluctuated over time but are typically between 16 and 34 per year. Clients mostly identify as women, are ethnically and racially diverse, and are from the New York City area. Many clients have cognitive impairment and limited financial resources.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic corresponded with a decrease in the number of clients by decreasing potential clients' desire to stay in long-term care facilities and increasing turnover in referring agencies.
  • The Weinberg Center has a clear program logic model that connects inputs and outputs with measurable short- and long-term outcomes.
  • Organizationally and programmatically, the Center is ready to embark on an evaluation, with scores of 77 and 84 percent, respectively, in those areas of the evaluability assessment.
  • However, a low score for evaluation readiness of 43 percent, driven largely by currently insufficient data collection processes, indicates that the Center would need to strengthen its data collection capacity to complete a rigorous evaluation.
  • Three evaluation designs could help the Weinberg Center's EAS and other EAS models rigorously evaluate its impact: (1) a quasi-experimental design using non-random self-selection into the program, (2) a propensity score matching design that pairs clients with Adult Protective Services, and (3) a robust pre- and post-evaluation design.
  • When conducting an evaluation of an EAS, researchers must consider equity, data safety, and consent. The experience of elder abuse and the tools needed to help someone heal will differ across individuals depending on their background and cultural expectations.

Recommendation

  • Because the Weinberg Center is largely ready to embark on an evaluation, its leadership should review the proposed designs and consult with partners and potential evaluation teams as needed to decide how to proceed. Federal and state partners interested in protecting victims of elder abuse should consider funding one of these evaluation designs to determine whether EASs should be supported and encouraged to proliferate as the population ages.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and conducted in the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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