Law student connects with clients as part of elder care team

September 06, 2012

Captivated by tales his grandfather would share with him as a child, Bradley Tritsch, a junior in Penn State Law, said he has always enjoyed interaction with older adults. In middle school, he started playing with a community band that visited local nursing homes and performed for the residents. “I didn’t want to just be working on the law. I feel it’s important to connect with the people I’m serving and to hear their stories,” Tritsch said.

Tritsch spent this summer working on an interdisciplinary elder care team at the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention in New York City. He described his experience as “phenomenal.”

The multidisciplinary approach of the Weinberg Center exposed him to a network of older adult advocates including adult protection services staff, social workers, attorneys from the elder abuse units of the district attorney’s offices, and geriatric doctors and nurses, all of whom contribute ideas on how to best handle each case. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be meeting so many people, all of whom share a passion for helping abuse victims.”

During his first week in the office, Tritsch had the opportunity to attend a HUD reverse mortgage training at the Bronx District Attorney’s (DA) Office. “You see commercials for reverse mortgages on TV all the time. While the intent behind them is to provide a financial means that will allow older adults to stay in their homes, scam artists often target older adults who may be misinformed or do not understand reverse mortgages. The HUD training really opened my eyes. For example, in one instance where the victim was an African American, the DA prosecuted the abuser in the case as a hate crime. From a deterrent standpoint, that’s a big deal!”

One of Tritsch’s biggest challenges has been a legal research project involving a bill of rights for older adults to provide them with access to courthouses. “Since elder law is not really defined, there are a lot of grey areas. The list of rights deemed to be important were already established. What I had to do was back each of them up with individual law. I focused a lot on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, what I have found is that the ADA and the case law that has come out of it only support maybe half the rights so I have to creatively find ways to support them by drawing from diverse areas of the law, both state and federal,” Tritsch explained.

“One of the most rewarding parts of my internship was the one-on-one client interaction, which included listening to how they felt that they were being taken advantage of, assisting them with their mail in determining important documents, and interacting with banks on their behalf to stem financial exploitation. It’s important that they know their voices are being heard.”

Founded in 2005, the Weinberg Center is the nation’s first comprehensive regional elder abuse shelter and provides a full range of health care and supportive services including legal representation. “The latest approach to addressing elder abuse is an interdisciplinary one, where a lawyer and a social worker or a geriatric care professional collaborate to help someone,” said Katherine Pearson, scholar of elder law and mentor to Tritsch.

During the upcoming academic year, Tritsch will be working on elder law issues as a research assistant for Professor Katherine Pearson. He is coordinating a joint program on financial abuse “Elder Justice: Beware and Be Prepared” to be held at the Law School on Oct. 4 in conjunction with the Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State and Centre County’s Geriatric Interest Network.

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  • Penn State Law student Bradley Tritsch

    IMAGE: Pam Knowlton

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015