New York Elder Abuse Impacts 1 in 7 over 60

An emerging study reveals that about one out of seven older New Yorkers suffers from some type of <"">elder or nursing home abuse. The Record Online cited a large study of residents over the age of 60 that found that in 2008 alone, a shocking one in 13 older New Yorkers was victimized.

The study, conducted by Weill Cornell Medical Center, the New York Department of Aging and Lifespan of Greater Rochester, revealed what one child of a victim described as “our insidious problem,” quoted The Record Online. The 2008 figures are staggering, pointing to over a quarter of a million seniors having been victimized.

Sadly, the abuse stretches beyond nursing homes and financial scams that have left many of our older citizens penniless, sometimes wielded at the hands of family. The Record Online discussed Ruby Cohen, an 87-year-old man who is addled following a stroke and who turned over his life savings, some $500,000, to his family.

Another tragedy described by The Record Online concerns a 77-year-old woman unable to pay her mortgage, but whose son moved in to help. He does not buy her food, which she now gets only after making the walk to the church food pantry. The third example The Record Online described concerns an 88-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s who gave her Social Security number to a late-night caller. She does not recall to whom she gave her information. Other stories involve family who visit their elderly family at nursing homes, securing Social Security checks for their own purposes and leaving their seniors penniless, noted The Record Online.

In other cases, relatives are the criminals who allow their family to live in squalor, without food, as they steal valuable possessions and money. Worse, of those victimized in 2008, only one out of 76 victims reported the crimes, said The Record Online.

“They’re embarrassed, ashamed,” says Roz Sharoff, who as president of Monticello Senior Citizens Club and co-president of the Sullivan Legislative Action Committee, quoted The Record Online. “This is family, they’ll say,” says Doris Rubinsky, program director of Orange County Jewish Family Service. “They don’t think it’s a crime,” she added, reported The Record Online. “It’s a hidden problem,” noted Janet Caffo, director of consumer affairs for Ulster County, who said local law enforcement and social services agencies “really don’t know how much it’s going on,” quoted The Record Online.

New York does not mandate report of elder abuse and much abuse is legal, noted The Record Online. The paper cited the case of Helen Palko, 83, who is blind and wheelchair-bound. Her granddaughter and the granddaughter’s spouse opened a joint bank account from which they stole over $130,000. They put Mrs. Palko in a nursing home and sent her poodle to the SPCA, where the pet was put down. Because the account was joint and there was not proof it was opened to defraud, the family was freed on appeal, noted The Record Online.

Other cases involved adult children who charge elderly family for time or gas, or abuse patients with dementia because family does not know how to handle the disease.

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