State officials, the courts, and victim advocates stand united on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) June 15, offering information for the public to identify and report abuse, along with resources to help victims.
“Approximately 260,000 older adults are victims of elder abuse each year in New York State,” said New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) Director Greg Olsen. “For every reported case, 23 cases go unreported, making it vital for the public to recognize signs of abuse and act.” The statistics come from a statewide Elder Abuse Prevalence Study by Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc., Weill Cornell Medical Center of Cornell University, and the New York City Department for the Aging.
“Across the state, our local departments of social services’ adult protective units continue to work tirelessly to investigate, address and mitigate allegations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation,” said New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “We know that our most senior New Yorkers are more at risk of becoming victimized due to the aging process, increased medical needs and social isolation, certainly worsened by the consequences of COVID-19. It is more important today than ever for all community members to understand the risks facing our elderly population and to recognize and report possible signs of abuse.”
Forms of Abuse
Abuse takes several forms: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; financial exploitation; and neglect (including self-neglect). Abuse is not always easily recognized. Older adults who are socially isolated are at increased risk for elder abuse, and COVID-19 has increased the risk. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggests that 1 in 5 older people has experienced elder abuse during the pandemic – an increase of nearly 84 percent over pre-pandemic levels.
For law enforcement to intervene and pursue any criminal charges, suspected abuse must be reported and properly investigated.
- To report abuse, individuals should call the Adult Protective Services (APS) helpline at 1-844-697-3505.
- For emergencies that require immediate attention, call 9-1-1.
- For non-emergency assistance, individuals can call the helpline for concerned individuals who might be worried about a friend or loved at 1-844-746-6905.
To identify possible abuse, individuals should look for the following signs, including if a person:
- Seems depressed, confused, or withdrawn.
- Is isolated from friends and family.
- Has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars.
- Exhibits poor hygiene or appears underfed, dehydrated, overmedicated or undermedicated, or is not receiving needed care for medical problems.
- Has bed sores or other preventable conditions.
- Exhibits recent changes in banking or spending patterns.
Elder Abuse Response
New York is responding to elder abuse in a variety of ways across multiple state agencies.
OCFS oversees Adult Protective Services in every county. It received more than $10 million in federal funding to support, improve, and enhance services, including addressing unsanitary conditions in the home, purchasing personal protective equipment for COVID-19 safety precautions, and upgrading technology in ways that have improved access to investigatory resources and service referrals from the field. Through these resources, APS clients have been able to remain in the community with housing, heating, basic needs, and transportation assistance.
OCFS also participated in a national public awareness campaign with nine other states. In this national partnership, OCFS contributed to the development of universal public education materials and public service announcements to be distributed throughout New York State. OCFS continues to support an Adult Protective Services reporting line at the Human Services Call Center (HSCC) (1-844-697-3505) weekdays until 8 p.m.
NYSOFA, in partnership with Lifespan of Greater Rochester and its contractors, provides a statewide Elder Abuse Education and Outreach Program (EAEOP) for older adults, their families and caregivers. NYSOFA has also pioneered the Elder Abuse Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team (E-MDT) program. E-MDTs, now in every region of the state, convene local agencies in individual counties working together to help address cases of elder abuse.
E-MDTs often include the local Office for the Aging and other aging service providers, Adult Protective Services, mental health professionals, health care providers, social workers, human services providers, banking/financial institutions, civil legal services, district attorney’s offices, law enforcement agencies, and access to forensic accountants. From 2014 to 2021, E-MDT interventions led to a reported $2.2 million in restitution in financial exploitation cases. Of this, $763,000 was reported returned to the victims.
Financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse. Statewide, for every reported case of financial exploitation, 43.9 cases go unreported. The Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget also includes $750,000 in funding to expand bill-payer programs in up to 10 counties, helping older adults manage their finances independently and identify red flags signaling possible exploitation.
- Caregiver stress is a major risk factor for abuse. Office for Aging programs include caregiver support groups and respite services, which provide temporary relief for caregivers. For caregiver assistance, call NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871.
- For concerns about older adults living in facilities, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is available in every region to help residents understand and exercise their rights to quality care. The statewide helpline is 1-855-582-6769.
- The Division of Consumer Protection can help victims of scams and frauds. It also offers consumer prevention and education information. For more information call 1-800-697-1220.
- The New York State Office of Victim Services may be able to help crime victims with medical bills, counseling expenses, lost wages, and other types of assistance.
- The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides a directory of programs that includes residential services and/or assistance, information, referral, counseling, advocacy, community education and outreach services.
These and other resources can be found HERE.
Judge Deborah Kaplan, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts and Chair of the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice, said: “While today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, every day we are cognizant of the fact that elder mistreatment, an often-hidden problem, may be an underlying factor in legal matters involving older persons. My goal as chair of the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice is to work with stakeholders in an effort to raise awareness about what constitutes elder mistreatment, how it can be identified, cultural and other factors which impact on reporting abuse and accessing services, relevant state laws, and other support available to assist older adults. Moreover, we are constantly striving to ensure that all older adults are able to participate in court proceedings to the fullest extent possible.”
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Commissioner Rossana Rosado said: “Our staff at DCJS works hard to prevent elder abuse by supporting the work of the Committee for the Coordination of Police Services to the Elderly, which develops training to improve law enforcement response to elder abuse. We are thankful for our partnership with NYSOFA and OVS and join them to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day so we can draw attention to this important issue.”
New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) Director Elizabeth Cronin said: “It’s far too common that vulnerable adults fall prey to those who abuse, neglect, or financially exploit them, and shining a light on this issue can help encourage more reporting. We at OVS are proud of our role working with our partners at the Office for the Aging to develop and expand our first-in-the-nation Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams Initiative. We have been able to provide millions of dollars in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding to help adults 60 and older who are at risk due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment or dementia, and social isolation, while expanding access to forensic accountants, mental health professionals, and civil legal services.”
Ann Marie Cook, President and CEO of Lifespan of Greater Rochester, said: “Elder abuse is a hidden problem that thrives in silence. It is underrecognized, underreported, and under-prosecuted. At Lifespan, we are thrilled to work with the New York State Office for the Aging and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services to shine light on this issue so that all older New Yorkers live free of abuse, mistreatment, and exploitation.”