Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services
June has been proclaimed as Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Chautauqua County and The United Nations has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Day. Each June, around the world, communities and organizations come together to raise awareness about the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of the elderly. Elder abuse is a universal problem that can occur anywhere, by anyone. As such, raising awareness and prevention requires the involvement of everyone.
County Executive Vince Horrigan has proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Prevention Month in Chautauqua County to recognize the importance of collaboration with community partners to ensure the safety of elder abuse victims, reduce the risk of future abuse, and pursue criminal prosecution in appropriate cases.
“The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, local law enforcement agencies, and other organizations work diligently to support seniors, investigate cases of suspected abuse, and defend seniors who are suffering from abuse,” said Horrigan.
The demographics of the global population are currently changing and it is estimated that by 2050 people above the age of 60 will surpass the number of younger people. This is significant as research indicates 4 to 6 percent of the elderly suffer from some form of abuse. Lifespan of Greater Rochester, in partnership with Cornell University, has reported that 260,000 adults are expected to be abused this year in New York State. Furthermore, only one in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited by a caregiver or someone they trust, and many victims are unable or afraid to report these crimes.
Horrigan suggests all Chautauqua County residents have a part to play in ending elder abuse by stating, “I encourage all residents to check in often on older adults, promote respectful relationships, and bring an end to elder abuse.”
The most prevalent form of elder abuse is financial exploitation. Thus, a task force of public and private agencies, including law enforcement and DHHS’ Adult Protective Services will commence this June. This “enhanced multidisciplinary team,” funded by Lifespan of Greater Rochester, is intended to investigate suspected financial exploitation, recover assets, and when appropriate prosecute those responsible. Additionally, the team includes a forensic accountant to analyze bank records and spot patterns of suspicious withdrawals and a geriatric psychiatrist to assess the victim’s mental capacity at the time of the crime and their ability to testify in court. To date, Lifespan of Greater Rochester has recovered over $1 million in court-ordered restitution.
Leanna Luka-Conley, Deputy Commissioner of Adult, Children and Family Services said, “Chautauqua County is fortunate in receiving a mini grant to assist in developing an Enhanced Multi-Disciplinary Team with specialized supports. We have many dedicated service providers and community members in our county, when brought together we can positively impact the issue of Elder Abuse.”
For additional information on how you can help end elder abuse visit the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’s website at www.weaad.org, call the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services Adult Protection Unit to schedule a no cost presentation for your organization to learn more about elder abuse prevention and report suspected elder abuse by calling 716-753-4447.