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NYSOFA highlights resources to prevent, identify, and report elder abuse

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Wed, Jun 12th 2024 06:00 pm

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, on June 15, shines spotlight on hidden tragedy

In anticipation of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), the New York State Office for the Aging highlights resources to help the public identify and report abuse, including scams and other fraud tactics targeting older adults. 

"Elder abuse remains a hidden tragedy, with nearly a quarter of cases going unreported," said NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen, citing the landmark Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study. "Elder abuse can happen to anyone anywhere. Caregivers, friends and neighbors all have an important role in staying vigilant for signs of abuse, talking to loved ones about it, and utilizing the many resources in New York state to prevent abuse, report it, and help victims."

Forms of elder abuse

Elder abuse takes several forms: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; financial exploitation; and neglect (including self-neglect). Elder abuse is not always easily recognized. Older adults who are socially isolated are at increased risk for elder abuse, and NYSOFA offers many resources to help overcome this root cause, including socialization programs available through local county Offices for the Aging and digital tools to help connect older adults. 

Reporting elder abuse

√ 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, or if you are worried about a friend or loved one, call the helpline for concerned individuals at 1-844-746-6905. This is a confidential resource.

Identifying elder abuse

An older adult could be a victim of elder abuse if they:

√ Seem depressed, confused or withdrawn.

√ Are isolating from friends and family.

√ Have unexplained bruises, burns or scars.

√ Exhibit poor hygiene or appear underfed, dehydrated, overmedicated or undermedicated, or are not receiving needed care for medical problems.

√ Have bed sores or other preventable conditions.

√ Exhibit recent changes in banking or spending patterns. 

Programs to combat elder abuse

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 use of enhanced multidisciplinary teams (E-MDTs) to intervene in cases of elder abuse through the elder abuse E-MDT initiative. 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 county Office for the Aging and other aging service providers, APS, mental health professionals, health care providers, social workers, human services providers, banking/financial institutions, civil legal service providers, district attorney’s offices, law enforcement agencies, and forensic accountants.

From 2014-23, E-MDT interventions led to a reported $4.8 million in restitution in financial exploitation cases. Of this, $1.3 million was reported returned to the victims. To learn more, visit the E-MDT Initiative website. You can also read NYSOFA's report on the E-MDT model to learn more about program outcomes.

Ann Marie Cook, president and CEO of Lifespan of Greater Rochester, said, “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a critical time in which we can focus everyone’s attention on the devastating impact of elder mistreatment. Elder abuse is a hidden problem that thrives in silence. It is underrecognized, underreported and under prosecuted. It is important to shine light on this issue so that all older New Yorkers live free of abuse, mistreatment and exploitation.”

Daniel Lyon, manager for fraud, scams and identity theft prevention at Lifespan of Greater Rochester, said, “Be scam aware! Last year, in the United States, more than $10 billion was lost to scammers. Imposter, romance and tech scams target older adults. Answer your phone only if the person is on your contact list. Don’t send money to people you meet online and know that no computer ever warns of viruses/malware with a pop-up.”

Association on Aging in New York Executive Director Rebecca Preve said, “The exploitation of older New Yorkers is prevalent, widespread, and largely underreported. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we take an opportunity to highlight the variety of resources available for the public to identify and address this issue, and how to take steps to protect yourself, family and friends.” 

Eric Jacobsen, elder abuse and E-MDT program coordinator at NYSOFA, said, “Elder abuse thrives in silence. It is a social, health and economic issue that impacts all New Yorkers, not just older adults. This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, it is important to highlight the efforts of New York state and agencies like Lifespan to prevent, identify, and stop abuse and exploitation, but also remember that combatting abuse requires everyone to be alert and take action every day.”

Scam resources

Financial exploitation – including scams and other fraud tactics that target older adults – is the most common form of elder abuse. AARP estimates financial exploitation costs victims 60 and older an astonishing $28.3 billion annually.

NYSOFA's new guide, “Don't Get Scammed: A Comprehensive Guide for Avoiding Fraud and Theft,” provides tips, resources and more to help older adults avoid scams. Please also watch and share NYSOFA's recent livestream on “Older Adults: Avoiding Scams and Fraud.” 

NYSOFA has partnered with the online community GetSetUp to feature online classes through its Cybersecurity and Fraud Hub as well as an Elder Abuse Awareness Series. The classes are among hundreds available for older adults to meet with their peers for online learning and social connectedness. Key classes include: 

Other resources

Caregiver stress is a major risk factor for abuse. County Offices for Aging offer caregiver support groups and respite services, which provide temporary relief for caregivers. For caregiver assistance, call NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871. Caregivers can also get connected to online resources like New York's caregiver portal.

For concerns about older adults living in facilities, the long-term care ombudsman program is available statewide 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 at https://aging.ny.gov/elder-abuse.

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