Elder Abuse Often Unrecognized

May 27, 2011
In recent history, our society has begun to talk more about domestic violence and sex offenses. Breaking the silence is the first step to exposing what goes on behind closed doors. Hearing others talk about abuse gives people who are abused the tools and courage to help themselves realize they are not the only ones who may be facing a difficult time and need help. Local organizations and social service offices have recently started awareness campaigns about Elder Abuse.

Elder abuse goes largely unreported. A recent statewide study of elder abuse determined that only one out of approximately 35 incidents comes to the attention of authorities in our region. Psychological abuse was the most common form of mistreatment reported in the study. The complete study can be found at http://www.aging.ny.gov/. The abuse usually happens by people we love and trust such as adult children, spouse or partner, grandchildren or other family members, friends and neighbors or other caretakers. There are generally three ways people can be mistreated: abuse, neglect and exploitation. Abuse is any repeated behavior used to control someone else physically, sexually or emotionally. Neglect is a caregiverís refusal to provide for your safety, physical or emotional needs. Exploitation is stealing money or property or using money as a way to maintain control.

Vera House is doing community outreach to raise more awareness. They have flyers and pamphlets available which contain useful facts. Below are signs caretakers can be on the lookout for that could indicate abuse:

  • Unexplained injuries, bruises or burns
  • Excessive fears, withdrawal or agitation
  • Sudden inability to pay bills, buy food or personal items
  • Isolation and withdrawal from people and activities
  • Changes in appetite, unusual weight gain or loss
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unaware of personal finances
  • Changes in behavior around a family member/caregiver
  • Unexpected changes in health

Vera House and Onondaga County will host a World Elder Abuse Day. On June 15, from 10 a.m. to noon, the public is invited to the Jewish Community Center at 5655 Thompson Road in DeWitt. Information shared will include elder abuse in our community; overview of the NYS Elder Abuse prevalence study; voice of a survivor; and community resources. To report abuse, residents may call the New York State hotline at 1-800-342-3009 and choose option 6. Vera House also manages a 24-hour crisis support hotline. That number is (315) 468-3260. To report suspected abuse, people may contact their county department of Social Services. In Onondaga County, that number is 315-435-2815. For Oswego County residents, call (315) 963-5000. If you are interested in hosting an elder abuse prevention program, call Jenny Hicks, Vera House Elder Abuse Educator, at (315) 425-0818.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 598-5185.