The American Elder Abuse Conference Vanguard Award was created in 2019 to recognize individuals who have made significant personal and professional efforts to identify, prevent and intervene in cases of Elder Abuse. Nominees are recognized for Regional or National efforts.  Regional is, as the name suggests, that which effects, communities, towns, cities, counties, states or several states. National is a larger scale that touches many, if not most, states and regions. There will be no more than two awardees for each type of award.

Activities that merit consideration include:

Creation of a successful program that provided protection and/or assistance to victims of any facet of Elder Abuse;

Creation and implementation of successful public information program;

Re-invigoration of an existing program that has not proven effective in the past but is now offering valuable protection and/or assistance to victims of Elder Abuse;

Development of system(s) to facilitate identification of Elder Abuse victims and/or to provide options to professionals to effectively refer Elder Abuse victims to appropriate programs;

Educate elders particularly, and the public generally about the facets of Elder Abuse;

Educate professionals to effectively intervene to prevent Elder Abuse and remove elders from abusive environments (physical and/or psychological);

Demonstrate a sustained history of successfully attacking the issues related to Elder Abuse;

Demonstrate a variety of successful efforts to prevent and/or intervene in Elder Abuse;

Establish and/or manage successful delivery of services to elders to prevent and/or intervene in Elder Abuse;

Develop replicable systems, programs and efforts to protect elders.

The recipients of the Vanguard Awards for 2020-2021 are shown below.
We are grateful for all who contributed to the nomination process and the previous Vanguard recipients who served as the selection committee.

Bonnie Brandl

Ms. Brandl retired May 31, 2021 as the Director of the National Clearinghouse on Abuse and Later Life (NCALL) after twenty years of leading the organization to become a national force in advocacy and service for older survivors of abuse, offering training and technical assistance to build or enhance Coordinated Community Response teams, through advocacy to enhance victim safety and hold offenders accountable, raise awareness of abuse in later life and Elder Abuse, and partner with organization to address domestic violence, sexual assault and Elder Abuse.


candace heisler

Ms. Heisler is a nationally recognized expert trainer in domestic violence, elder abuse, stalking, abuse in later life, and multidisciplinary coordinated response to these forms of abuse. She is active nationally as a highly sought-after consultant and instructor.  she has consulted with ncall and the international association of forensic nurses.  Ms. Heisler is recognized for the training of judges, advocates, attorneys, medical professionals and law enforcement officers.  As a domestic violence expert, Ms. Heisler has been the leading contributor to the understanding of domestic violence among elders.  she has published numerous articles and has contributed to textbooks that are valuable resources to law enforcement, social service, medical, legal and other professions.


Vanessa Riebli

Ms. Riebli retired in July of 2021 as an Assistant District Attorney in Johnson County, Kansas.  She specialized in prosecution of financial crimes, particularly those involving older adult and dependent adult victims.  Ms. Riebli advocated to improve legislation for crimes against the elderly, and actively trained prosecutors and law enforcement when the legislation passed.  Ms. Riebli is active with Community Violence Action Council, and has secured grant funding to assist in the goals of the Council to protect abuse victims.  Ms. Riebli is regarded as a mentor by attorneys, social workers and protective services professionals.    


Pat King

Ms. King passed away on June 30, 2021.  She was selected as a recipient for 2020 and the award carried over to 2021 due to the COVID 19 Pandemic.  Ms. King was a registered nurse and forensic expert who was certified by Georgia Police Officer Standards and Training (POST).  After a career in nursing she actively consulted and educated law enforcement in the investigation of domestic violence and elder abuse.  Ms. King joined the Georgia Division of Aging Services as its first Forensic Specialist and established the Forensic Special Initiatives Unit to provide training and case assistance for elder abuse investigators across the state. where she addressed abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults in the state of Georgia and nationally.  Ms. King co‐developed the At‐Risk Adult Crime Tactics (ACT) certification course, and as a principle ACT instructor, she trained over 2,000 Georgia law enforcement officers, bank personnel, APS case managers, prosecutors, victim service providers, healthcare providers, and others on recognizing and responding to elder abuse in its various forms.  Ms. King has also been instrumental in the enactment of Georgia’s now robust elder protection laws, including GA’s Benefits Trafficking law—the first of its kind nationally.

Pat King was a true champion for elder rights, and she is missed!