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September 1, 2006

Professor passionate about researching elder abuse

James Bulot, interim department head and assistant professor of gerontology at ULM, was recently certified as an Elderly Service Officer. This certification will allow Bulot, the only professor to have a Gerontology PH.D. in Louisiana, to become more involved with elder abuse investigations.

The certification is primarily for law enforcement and Elderly Protective Services personnel who are dedicated to helping older people protect themselves against violence and fraud. Because of Bulot’s academic training and community service, he was allowed to become certified.

“I knew a great deal about elderly abuse from an academic and research standpoint, but I knew relatively little from an applied or law enforcement perspective. This certification will allow me not only to become more involved in these issues within the community, but it will also help me to enhance my elder abuse course and research by including ‘real world’ examples of elder abuse, how law enforcement responds to elder abuse, and how other community agencies play a role in protecting seniors from abuse.”

Bulot has been teaching an elder abuse course at ULM for the past five years.

His course focuses on the major types of elder abuse, identifiers and ways to protect seniors from abuse. “A common misconception is that most elder abuse occurs in the institutional setting.  It is true some occurs there, but the vast majority occurs in the community and is committed by family or friends. We only hear about institutional abuse because it is publicized more than abuse committed by family.”

Due to widespread interest in his course, Bulot is developing a second course on elder abuse, focusing on institutional settings, as well as victims of crime by strangers.

Bulot feels strongly about the issue.

“Within my own family I have dealt with abuse issues, mainly financial abuse,” he said. “As with anything, we try to improve the lives of others.  As we age, it seems many of us lose our voice or we are simply no longer heard.  Someone has to speak up on these issues.”

Bulot and others in the gerontology and sociology department are trying to pass federal legislation that will give the elderly a voice.  “In Louisiana, we have very good laws, but few people know about them.  Even fewer know how to recognized elder abuse when it occurs.  Nationally, there is no overriding standard to protect individuals for abuse neglect or exploitation. What we are trying to do is raise awareness and help others to recognize elder abuse. If I can educate 50 people a year, that's 50 more people who can be advocates in their area.”

Bulot has served on the Advisory Board of the Regional Elderly Protective Services Office. He is a member of the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together Council and TRIAD, a partnership with law enforcement, AARP, and seniors who work together to reduce the criminal victimization of the elderly and enhance law enforcement services for older people.

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