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Reaching Important Gatekeepers:  Training Pharmacists about Elder Abuse 

Tatyana Gurvich, PharmD—University of California, Irvine /University of Southern California and Glendale Adventist FPRP
Bradley Williams, PharmD, CGP—University of California, Irvine /University of Southern California
Mary S. Twomey, MSW—University of California, Irvine 
Elaine A. Chen, MS—University of California, Irvine 
Laura Mosqueda, MD, FAAFP, AGSF—University of California, Irvine 


The role of pharmacists is critical in addressing elder abuse, yet they receive no training in this area.  Geropharmacist educators from UC Irvine, USC and Glendale Adventist FPRP teamed up with the UC Irvine Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect to develop course materials for pharmacy students.  Students learn that pharmacists in any setting (in-patient, outpatient, ambulatory, and long-term care settings) may detect elder abuse.  

This project sheds light on the hidden but common problem of elder mistreatment.  It helps students identify red flags of abuse and neglect and gives direction on how to proceed when mistreatment is suspected.

female discussing meds with older man

sad older woman being comforted by female health professional

The hidden problem of elder abuse

 As seniors become frail, they become isolated from regular interactions with their social support system.  Pharmacists may be the only non-caregiver contacts outside the home.  

  • Pharmacists are mandated elder abuse reporters in some states, and always have professional responsibility to protect the public welfare.
  • When refills are requested pharmacists have an excellent, and often missed opportunity, to interact with patients and spot risk factors, which may indicate abuse.  
  • Medications become instruments of abuse when they are used to over or under medicate patients, withheld due to cost, or stolen. 
  • A drug regimen review can reveal such red flags.


Multi-faceted curriculum for pharmacy schools 

To support pharmacy school instructors seeking to include elder abuse-related content in their classes, we have developed free modularized materials that can be downloaded from this website.  These modules can be incorporated into various classes.  

Training materials include:

  • Learning objectives
  • Powerpoint slides 
  • Handouts
  • Multiple-choice test questions
  • Key resources for further information
  • Scenarios (written and on video)

These modules are available free of charge.  We only ask that you please give us feedback on these materials, using a very short online survey

AB 40 Update: To depict the new requirements for mandatory reporting of suspected physical abuse in a long-term care facility, the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Association and the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman have created a helpful flow chart (PDF). For additional training information about AB 40 (effective 01/01/13 and reflected in W & I Code 15610.67) please visit  We are in the process of incorporating these changes into the slide sets for "An Introduction to Elder Abuse," "Elder Abuse and the Law," and "Elder Abuse: A Pharmacist's Role." In the mean time, please download and use the handy flow chart (PDF).

“An Introduction to Elder Abuse for Pharmacists”

(10-15 min) This brief module is appropriate for first- or second-year students.  An Introduction to Elder Abuse is presented in the Self-Care Class at USC for second-year students.  


“Increasing Pharmacist Awareness of Elder Abuse and the Law”

(1 hr) is presented in the Law Class at USC for second-year students.  It addresses laws pertaining to reporting of abuse in didactic and case-based formats.  Special thanks to Fred G. Weissman, JD, Pharm D.


“Elder Abuse: A Pharmacist's Role”

(1 hr) is presented in the Special Population Module in Therapeutics at USC for third-year students.  This module would also be appropriate for community pharmacists.  Special thanks to Leslie Vitin, Pharm D.

“Pharmacy Practice Experiences through Elder Abuse Education”

This brief guide includes ideas for providing Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences and Geriatrics Ambulatory Care rotation activities.  These include Multi-Disciplinary Teams of professionals addressing cases of abuse and neglect and visits with Community Agencies, such as Adult Protective Services, Long-term Care Ombudsman, and Law Enforcement.


“Training Scenarios”

These case examples were designed to aid in recognition of elder mistreatment and to spark discussion.

  • Written scenarios (MS Word) including the three below and additional clinical and nursing-home based case examples

Video-based scenarios

Film production by Alec Contestabile and Ngoc Ho





Please Note

These materials are free to use.  Please participate in our very short online survey to give your feedback and help shape future materials.


stop sign reads ABUSE

Thank you for your interest in this project!  With your help, pharmacists will be better able to help safeguard the well-being of vulnerable patients.

For information about the curriculum creators' programs, visit:

Thank you to our supporters

This project was funded by grants from Kaiser Permanente Southern California Region Community Benefit and UniHealth Foundation.