Background: The aging population is a rapidly growing demographic. Isolation and limited autonomy render many of the elderly vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation. As the population grows, so does the need for Adult Protective Services (APS). This study was conducted to examine current knowledge of older adult protection laws in Georgia among APS staff and to identify training opportunities to better prepare the APS workforce in case detection and intervention.
Methods: The Georgia State University Institute of Public Health faculty developed a primary survey in partnership with the Georgia Division of Aging Services’ leadership to identify key training priority issues for APS caseworkers and investigators. A 47-item electronic questionnaire was delivered to all APS employees via work-issued email accounts. We conducted descriptive analyses, t-tests and chi-square analyses to determine APS employees’ baseline knowledge of Georgia’s elder abuse policies, laws and practices, as well as examine associations of age, ethnicity, and educational attainment with knowledge. We used a p-value of 0.05 and 95% confidence intervals to determine statistical significance of analyses performed.
Result: Ninety-two out of 175 APS staff responded to the survey (53% response rate). The majority of respondents were Caucasian (56%) women (92%). For over half the survey items, paired sample t-tests revealed significant differences between what APS staff reported as known and what APS staff members indicated they needed to know more about in terms of elder abuse and current policies. Chi-square tests revealed that non-Caucasians significantly preferred video conferencing as a training format (44% compared to 18%), [χ2(1) = 7.102, p < .008], whereas Caucasians preferred asynchronous online learning formats (55% compared to 28%) [χ2(1) =5.951, p < .015].
Conclusion: Results from this study provide the Georgia Division of Aging with insight into specific policy areas that are not well understood by APS staff. Soliciting input from intended trainees allows public health educators to tailor and improve training sessions. Trainee input may result in optimization of policy implementation, which may result in greater injury prevention and protection of older adults vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation. [West J Emerg Med. 2011;12(3):357-364.]