SCES Elder Protective Services adopts new assessment tool

SCES Adult Protective Services Director Stephanie Becker is a master trainer for a new protective services tool in Massachusetts.


Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is an early adopter for a new tool designed to help Elder Protective Services evaluate reports of elder abuse and neglect.

Massachusetts is the second state to adopt the Interview for Decisional Abilities. It’s a structured discussion that helps Protective Services social workers assess an elder’s ability to make decisions about safety concerns and possible interventions, explained SCES Protective Services Director Stephanie Becker.

“One of the challenges of Elder Protective Services is gauging how much insight an elder has into whatever risks they are running,” said Becker. “This tool helps us get a better understanding of that, which in turn helps us respect their right to self-determination.”

Elder Protective Services investigates reports of abuse and neglect, and works with older adults to mitigate risk factors.

Self-determination is an important component of Adult Protective Services; older adults can refuse assistance, provided they demonstrate they understand the risks. Becker said the interview can be very helpful when dealing with scenarios of self-neglect, where the capacity of an elder to make reasoned decisions is key.

“If somebody is able to exhibit insight into the risk of a given behavior and articulate reasoning about whether or not to accept an intervention, that provides us with valuable information about their ability to make that choice,” said Becker.
In practice, the interview focuses on three primary areas: general appreciation of an identified risk, appreciation of how the elder is personally at risk, and the ability to weigh pros and cons of a potential intervention.

The interview was originally developed through a partnership between the NYC Elder Abuse Center, the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging, and Weill Cornell Medicine, to assist the New York City Adult Protective Services program. The program was piloted in New York City, and Becker said both California and Vermont are looking at adopting it.

Becker is one of 10 master trainers statewide, who helped bring the program to the Boston area earlier this year. She’s currently working to bring the program to other agencies across the region, with the goal of making it available statewide.

The Protective Services Program at SCES served 272 clients over the past year.

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, visit, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 for free advice and guidance.