Spreading the word about elder abuse and Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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VERONA BEACH — To help spread the word about elder abuse and Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 50 Forward Mohawk Valley will hold an open house at their Verona Beach location on Monday, June 27. The open house will feature seminars and information on scams, frauds and identity theft, which target senior citizens in the community. Local agencies and businesses will be on hand to provide valuable information about protecting yourself and your loved ones from these malicious scams.

The open house is free and will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 50 Forward Mohawk Valley at 6734 Route 13 in Verona Beach.

The open house will feature door prizes, give-a-ways, games and lunch. There will be two keynote speakers: Tracey Siebert-Konopko and Justin McCabe from the Lifespan agency of Rochester. The event will be hosted by 50 Forward, Adirondack Bank and the Oneida County Office for the Aging & Continuing Care, which is headquartered in Whitestown.

“Bringing awareness to elder abuse helps people become aware of the different types of abuse that exist and what resources are available to help people who may be a victim of abuse,” said 50 Forward Mohawk Valley Executive Director Kelly Walters. “50 Forward provides workshops given by community partners, including law enforcement, to help keep people informed about abuse, which includes scams, fraud and more.”

She said, “The more information that people have about such things, the better they are able to protect themselves or report a case of abuse if they are a victim.”

Elder Abuse Awareness Day was held this past week. The day was started in 2006 to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

“Approximately 260,000 older adults are victims of elder abuse each year in New York State,” said Greg Olsen, director of the New York State Office for the Aging.

“For every reported case, 23 cases go unreported, making it vital for the public to recognize signs of abuse and act.”

According to the authorities, abuse takes several forms: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; financial exploitation; and neglect, including self-neglect. Abuse is not always easily recognized. Older adults who are socially isolated are at increased risk for elder abuse, and COVID-19 has increased the risk.

Oneida County Office for the Aging Director Michael J. Romano said Elder Abuse Awareness Day is something the OFA heads up locally every year, and this year they have chosen June 27 to hold a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event in Verona Beach.

“We have a good lineup in terms of educational speakers on elder abuse and prevention, and an expert on scams and fraud,” Romano said. “Unfortunately, older adults are targets of scams, and fraud, abuse and neglect, but the more we can educate people in our community, the better. Prevention is about being aware — aware of services through the OFA and Adult Protective Services, who investigate neglect and abuse of elders.”

A study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggested that 1 in 5 seniors has experienced elder abusing during get pandemic — an increase of nearly 84% over pre-pandemic levels.

How to identify abuse:

• A senior seems depressed, confused or withdrawn.

• The senior is isolated from friends and family.

• The person has unexplained bruises, burns or scars; or they have bed sores and other preventable conditions.

• They exhibit poor hygiene or appear underfed, dehydrated, over-medicated or under-medicated.

• The senior exhibits a recent change in banking or spending patterns.

The sate Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) oversees Adult Protective Services in every county. It received more than $10 million in federal funding to support, improve, and enhance services, including addressing unsanitary conditions in the home, purchasing personal protective equipment for COVID-19 safety precautions, and upgrading technology in ways that have improved access to investigatory resources and service referrals from the field.

Through these resources, APS clients have been able to remain in the community with housing, heating, basic needs and transportation assistance.

OCFS also participated in a national public awareness campaign with nine other states. In this national partnership, OCFS contributed to the development of universal public education materials and public service announcements to be distributed throughout New York. 

The state Office for the Aging (OFA), in partnership with Lifespan of Greater Rochester and its contractors, provides a statewide Elder Abuse Education and Outreach Program (EAEOP) for older adults, their families and caregivers. OFA has also pioneered the Elder Abuse Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team (E-MDT) program. E-MDTs, now in every region of the state, convene local agencies in individual counties working together to help address cases of elder abuse.

E-MDTs often include the local Office for the Aging and other aging service providers, Adult Protective Services, mental health professionals, health care providers, social workers, human services providers, banking/financial institutions, civil legal services, district attorney’s offices, law enforcement agencies, and access to forensic accountants.

From 2014 to 2021, E-MDT interventions led to a reported $2.2 million in restitution in financial exploitation cases. Of this, $763,000 was reported returned to the victims.

Financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse, officials said. Statewide, for every reported case of financial exploitation, 43.9 cases go unreported. The fiscal year 2023 state budget also includes $750,000 in funding to expand bill-payer programs in up to 10 counties, helping older adults manage their finances independently and identify red flags signaling possible exploitation.

Adult Protective Services in Oneida County can be contacted at 315-798-5737. The state APS helpline is 1-844-697-3505.

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