Perhaps you recently read about or heard about the city worker arrested for stealing from well over 100 people. He’s accused of taking advantage of applicants by changing the PIN numbers on their benefit cards and removing money from their accounts without their knowledge or consent. The victim profiles cut across numerous categories: many do not speak English and some are disabled. But because they were all seeking benefits through a senior work center, they share one thing in common: they’re elderly, ranging in age from 62 to 99.
Financial Abuse Common
When people think of elder abuse, they often think of physical abuse, such as beatings or starvation, or emotional and psychological abuse. They might recall cases of sexual abuse, such as those detailed in a recent ProPublica report, which documented numerous cases of workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers posting explicit images of residents to online social media services. Some of those involved in these incidents and others have faced criminal charges.
Many people may not realize that elder financial abuse is also a serious concern. In fact, by some estimates, financial abuse might be the most common type of abuse faced by senior citizens. One study noted by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reported that elders self-reported instances of financial abuse more often than emotional, physical, or sexual abuse – more than 4% of them experienced it in a given year. The problem is known to be much larger, however, although no one has a good handle on its true scale: that same study suggested that in New York State only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse is ever reported to authorities.
Costing Seniors, Their Families, and Society
Just as with the number of elder financial abuse cases, the full cost of elder financial abuse is unknown. The NCEA cites one study that pegged the direct loss to elders at $2.9 billion in 2009. A 2015 study by a financial services company arrived at a far larger number: over $36.4 billion. Even if the actual amount is somewhere in between, this is still a staggering figure.
The effects, however, don’t stop at the numbers on a bank statement. Senior financial abuse has many ramifications, including depression and anxiety in both the seniors and other family members. The loss of money can mean skipped or reduced medical care for seniors, and the 2015 report also noted that financial losses led to nearly one million seniors skipping meals because they didn’t always have enough money to pay for food. Financial losses among elders lead to extra stress for others in the family, which sometimes results in divorce and even career problems.
Report Elder Abuse
Elder abuse of any kind, by anyone, in any place, should be reported. Whether the abuse is physical or financial; is perpetrated by a stranger or a family member; and takes place in public, in a care facility, or in the victim’s own home, it should be brought to the attention of a responsible party who can make it stop and hold the culprits responsible.
In New York, the Office of Children and Family Services includes a division, the Bureau of Adult Services, which is specifically tasked with overseeing protective services for adults, including the elderly and the disabled. If you become aware of an incident of elder abuse, report it by calling 1-844-697-3505 or by contacting your local social services office.
Pursuing Elder Abuse Claims
At the law offices of Greenstein & Milbauer we take elder abuse seriously. Our practice has experience with this type of case, especially with situations involving nursing home neglect. If you suspect abuse or neglect or, in a worst-case scenario, wrongful death while under the care of another, it’s important that you discuss the situation with a qualified attorney. Give us a call for a free consultation at 800-842-8462 or contact us online. You can also use the LiveChat application on any page of our website at any time, day or night.