FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2012
SCHUMER: ABUSE OF ELDERLY MASSIVELY UNDER- REPORTED IN NY - PUSHES PLAN TO TOUGHEN FEDERAL ABUSE STANDARDS AND MAKE SURE THOUSANDS OF CASES DON’T FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS
Schumer Reveals Only About 1 In 24 Cases of Abuse of NY Elderly Are Reported to Authorities - Massive Study Finds New York Has Some of Worst Reporting Rates In The Nation
Plan Will Toughen Fed Laws For Abusing and Defrauding Seniors And Create First-Ever Resources For Elder Adults Being Abused
New York Is One of Only Three States In The Nation That Doesn’t Require Reporting of Potential Crimes Against the Elderly
With hundreds of thousands of cases of elder abuse unreported in Upstate New York, Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his push for comprehensive legislation that will help identify and assist victims of elder abuse, which can include financial exploitation, physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Among other improvements, the legislation would toughen federal standards of abuse and exploitation of seniors; improve screening and reporting protocols so that abuse is identified and stopped; and increase training so that instances of elder abuse are recognized more quickly and frequently by trained professionals and adults. Schumer also noted that this legislation, the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act, creates a more comprehensive plan of attack to combat elder abuse across Upstate New York.
The non-profit Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc. released a study last year of elder abuse in New York State and estimated that 260,000 seniors had been victims of elder abuse in one year, with financial exploitation particularly prevalent. Schumer also highlighted that only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse in New York are actually reported to the authorities, one of the lowest reporting rates in the nation.
“A growing number of elderly adults are being abused and exploited across Upstate New York, and unfortunately recent reports indicate that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Schumer. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant and to begin fighting back against the scourge of elder abuse, we need to make sure that the crimes are reported. Once we make sure that all cases of elder abuse are reported, we have to provide law enforcement and healthcare professionals with the resources and data they need to fight back. That’s what my plan does.”
Schumer was joined on the call by Ann Marie Cook, Lifespan’s President and Chief Executive Officer, as he launched his proposal to implement a comprehensive network of elder abuse prevention and response measures. The Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act would help prevent elder abuse on several critical fronts. The legislation would expand the scope of federal definitions of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and, for the first time, make resources and social services available to victims under the Adult Protective Services (APS) through National Adult Protective Resources Centers modeled on similar centers for children. Victims would also be able to locate community services and resources via a new toll-free telephone number. The bill also allows victims of abuse to be fast-tracked for services like emergency housing shelters, nutrition assistance, or legal aid. Alleged victims of elder abuse would be defined as in “greatest social need.” This is an immediate benefit that many experts have said will make a tremendous different to victims.
Also under this legislation, introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), programs for seniors that receive federal assistance would be required to implement prevention training, screening and reporting protocol for elder abuse. This is critically important to increase case reporting and help victims. For example, a volunteer for Meals on Wheels programs, which provide food to certain elderly and is federally funded, would be trained to better detect and report signs of abuse. That volunteer would follow a state-created protocol to make sure that the senior is screened and provided with support programs. Schumer noted that while child abuse and domestic violence screenings are well-integrated into the nation’s health and community services network, elder abuse screening requirements are noticeably absent in federally-supported senior services.
Schumer’s proposal would also help seniors exercise their legal rights by requiring states to incorporate elder justice planning, including access to legal services, in their plans on aging. Finally, this legislation would, for the first time, authorize the government to collect data in order to develop and distribute information on best practices for elder abuse screening methods. According to GAO, New York is currently one of only three states that do not have mandatory reporting requirements for elder abuse, making it all the more important to have the bill’s comprehensive screening efforts.
Elder abuse incidents have increased by 150 percent in the last 10 years alone. A recent study of the G.A.O. shows that every year, 14 percent of all non-institutionalized adults are victims of abuse or neglect or exploitation, whether physical or financial or even sexual. So the statistics show a trend that is undeniable.
According to Lifespan’s 2011 report, as many as 260,000 of New York’s seniors were victims of at least one form of abuse during a twelve month span between 2008-2009. Only 1 in every 24 cases, however, was referred to New York’s social service providers or law enforcement authorities. This gap in reporting is an appalling situation that needs to be addressed.
In addition to physical and psychological abuse, recent studies also indicate that financial abuse of older Americans is on the rise. One such study by MetLife found that seniors lost $2.9 billion to financial abuse in 2010, which is up 12 percent since 2008. Schumer highlighted that this statistic only scrapes the surface, given the amount of unreported financial exploitation that occurs across the state and the county.
On the call, Schumer revealed county-by-county estimates regarding the prevalence of reported elder abuse:
· In the Capital Region, there are an estimated 13,115 cases of elder abuse.
· In Central New York, there are an estimated 15,299 cases of elder abuse.
· In the Hudson Valley, there are an estimated 30,735 cases of elder abuse.
· In the North Country, there are an estimated 6,012 cases of elder abuse.
· In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there are an estimated 14,066 cases of elder abuse.
· In the Southern Tier, there are an estimated 12,994 cases of elder abuse.
· In Western New York, there are an estimated 20,719 cases of elder abuse.
Lifespan’s “New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study” is one of the most comprehensive studies to quantify the extent of elder abuse in a discrete jurisdiction ever attempted, and the largest in any single state. With funding from the New York State William B. Hoyt Memorial Children and Family Trust Fund, a program administered under NYS Office of Children and Family Services, three community, governmental, and academic partners (Lifespan of Greater Rochester, the New York City Department for the Aging and the Weill Cornell Medical College) formed a collaborative partnership to conduct the study. This study examined elder abuse in New York State through two different but complementary methods, by obtaining data on self-reported cases of elder abuse, by surveying the number of documented cases in the state and comparing the results to achieve a rate of underreporting. It is one of the largest studies of its kind, with over 4,100 subjects interviewed and 325 service organizations responding to the Documented Case survey. Lifespan is a New York based non-profit organization that has provided services, information and guidance to older adults and caregivers for over 40 years.