Gatekeepers: Watching Out for our Community’s Vulnerable Adults

The Gatekeeper Program trains employees in the community to recognize warning signs that indicate an older adult or adult with disabilities may be at risk of isolation or abuse. There are a variety of businesses/organizations where employees routinely interact with residents through the course of their regular duties. The Gatekeeper program trains these employees to be the eyes and ears of the community.

Some people who need help do not ask for it because they are isolated, unable to ask on their own, or lack family or friends who can advocate on their behalf. Others may think they are fine and don’t need help, or that social services are for people other than themselves. Some people don’t trust government, are afraid of becoming victims of a scam or worry they can’t afford to pay for the services they need. At times, people’s mental health or cognitive impairments may not allow them to recognize changes in their own situation or dangers. Gatekeepers can help overcome these barriers.

Gatekeepers are employees who interact with older adults or adults with disabilities on a regular basis, get to know their customers, and are in a position to recognize significant changes. Examples:

  • Utility Company Workers
  • Police Officers
  • Bank and Credit Union Personnel
  • Apartment Managers
  • Community or Family Members
  • Support and Social Service Programs
  • Firemen
  • Transportation Providers
  • Letter Carriers

The Gatekeeper program “opens the gates” to services offered through the Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC). Services offered through the Aging and Disability Resource Connection include:

  • Bathing, housekeeping, and other personal needs
  • Care options counseling
  • Legal services
  • Family and caregiver support
  • Home-delivered meals
  • Medical and adaptive equipment
  • Transportation
  • Adult Protective Services

Gatekeepers are trained to recognize red flags that indicate an individual may be in need and to make a referral to the ADRC. They look for changes in communication, cognitive condition, financial situation, emotional health, physical decline, or personal appearance. An ADRC staff person follows up on the call. The Gatekeeper referral may result in a phone call or home visit to the person to make sure the person receives appropriate services. In extreme cases of suspected abuse or neglect the ADRC staff person may call Adult Protective services.

The service offers anonymity for the Gatekeeper and confidentiality for the older adult. All services are voluntary, so individuals contacted by the ADRC have the right to refuse. Still, they have the comfort of knowing that there are caring people in the Gatekeeper program who are watching out for them.

If you have concerns about an older person or a person with a disability who may be in a vulnerable situation, call the ADRC at 541-664-6674,