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November 9, 2010

Forum Focuses on Elder Abuse Prevention

Forum focuses on elder-abuse prevention
E Detection, intervention key focuses at CC Domestic Violence Task Force event
November 7, 2010

 By STEPHEN BARTLETT
Smack a child and leave a mark, and police won't be swayed by the excuse, "I just snapped."

Yet, in some segments of society, it's considered OK for a caregiver to turn frustration with the elderly into physical abuse, says Art Mason, director of Lifespan's elder-abuse prevention program.

"They let them lay in their own excrement and hit them, and they rationalize it and try to get you to buy into their belief it is all right to do that to their elderly parent," he said.

"And some people actually think, 'She's just a stressed caregiver.' We cannot collude with the perpetrator in these situations just because they are a caregiver."
THREATS
Mason recently spoke at an adult-abuse forum sponsored by Clinton County Domestic Violence Task Force at the Government Center in the City of Plattsburgh. The event focused on prevention and detection of elder abuse, as well as intervention.

"One of the things we hear as a means of control is, 'I'm going to put you in the nursing home,'" said Richard Holcomb of Clinton County Adult Protective Services, who facilitated the event.

"First of all, you can't just put someone in the nursing home. They are for people who require that level of care, and to go to a nursing home you have to be very needy.

"The nursing home is not the tool their victimizers try to use it as."
WATCHING
Adult Protective Services, Holcomb said, sort of swoops in, addresses the victim's needs and ensures the individual makes the transition to the next level of services before closing the case.

Adult Protective Services can't go in and take over an individual's resources if, for example, that person was being taken advantage of financially by a caregiver.

But the agency has become skilled at projecting a level of authority — "to sort of let exploiters know we are watching for any criminal activity," Holcomb said. "Those conversations can stop or limit the number of assets disappearing."
SIGNS OF ABUSE
Elder abuse comes in several forms, including physical, psychological/emotional, financial, sexual and neglect.

There is no uniform reporting system, so state statistics on elder abuse vary widely. But according to the best available national estimates, between 1 million and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited or mistreated by someone who was caring for them, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Roughly 1 in 14 incidents come to the attention of authorities, and for every one case of elder abuse reported, about five go unreported.

Signs of elder abuse include an older person who says he or she is being harmed, depression, unwillingness to leave caregiver, fear to make their own decisions, lack of spending money and feeling anxious and fearful.

Abusers can be a spouse, partner, relative, friend or neighbor, volunteer worker, paid worker, practitioner or anyone with the intent to deprive a vulnerable person of their resources.
TRYING TO HELP
Roughly three years ago, a local elderly woman fell and broke her hip and was taken in by what seemed to be a Good Samaritan. The woman ended up buying the man his truck and trailer and covering the cost of his vacation, while she was restricted to a shack.

Law enforcement began talking to the woman, so the man moved her to family members in Florida for two years. Plattsburgh City Police involved Secret Service, and an indictment eventually came in for the man.

"Then she passes away after losing her entire life savings and there is no arrest," said Lt. Scott Beebie.

He believes City Police is doing the best it can with the resources at its disposal to combat elder abuse, though he said the trend is to handle a case and move onto the next one.

"We are your best friend until we move onto the next one, and victims don't get the follow-through they deserve," Beebie said of police, in general.

"Law enforcement doesn't do a good job continuing to help the victim once they are in the system."

It takes a community effort, stressed Holcomb.
NO TRACKING
One problem, Mason said, is New York is one of five states that doesn't require mandatory reporting of elder abuse in the community, which is where most seniors live.

"Also, we have the third largest number of people age 65 and over in the country, yet we have no clue how many victims we have in the state. There is no centralized reporting of data."
SOURCE:    The Press Republican


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