What you should know about elder abuse and scams, and how FCA can help

What you should know about elder abuse and scams, and how FCA can help

By Lisa Stern
Elder abuse is on the rise. It comes in many forms, and affects older people across all backgrounds and cultures. It can victimize the rich and the poor, the highly educated, the skeptics and the optimists. Even the most vigilant among us can have a moment of vulnerability, and that’s all it takes.
Sadly, while many older adults are victimized through phone, internet or postal solicitations, two-thirds of financial exploitation abuses are perpetrated by relatives or other people known to the victim.
Family and Children’s Association, one of Nassau County’s largest and oldest human services nonprofit organizations, can help. FCA’s Safe Observant Seniors program is fighting elder abuse scams and abuse with preventive and support services designed to help empower older adults and their families to recognize the predatory behavior that leads to financial abuse and other exploitation.
The National Council on Aging reports that nationally, 60% of the abusers are family members. In the cases referred to FCA through the Nassau County District Attorney’s office and other external agencies, the percentage is higher, at close to 95%. Most often these abusers are adult children with untreated substance use disorders and/or undiagnosed mental health issues. Escorting the abuser out of the home may solve one problem but can create others, such as when the victim is frail and dependent on his or her abuser for daily care. Additionally, oftentimes the victim is more concerned about the well-being of their family member over their own safety. This, along with shame, loss of dignity, fear of retaliation and loss of independence results in gross underreporting of abusive relationships.
Working with the Nassau County District Attorney, SOS helps seniors who have experienced scams or other financial abuse by providing wrap-around services that assist the victim throughout the investigation and provide support and counseling.
Services include:
• Virtual or in-person short-term crisis counseling and support groups
• Liaison with the criminal justice system to keep clients informed every step of the way
• Assistance obtaining and understanding court orders of protection
• Assistance in investigating and resolving suspected financial exploitation
• Assistance filing for Crime Victims’ Compensation through NYS
• Access to FCA’s comprehensive suite of senior services
• Support with accessing and understanding community resources
Why are the numbers so high in Nassau County? While the answer is complex, here are three major reasons.
• Most Long Island communities consist of single-family homes and have no robust public transportation infrastructure. Older residents tend to drive less, and ultimately give up driving altogether, isolating them from family, friends, libraries, religious communities, and other sources of support. Isolation and loneliness make seniors more vulnerable to all forms of abuse, whether by phone, internet, their mailbox or from family, friends or hired help.
• Nassau County seniors living on a fixed income often have difficulties making ends meet, forcing them to share their homes with a family member they know to have mental health or behavioral problems. Similarly, an adult child who has trouble getting or keeping a job will have little or no chance of finding affordable housing so the senior parent will take them in rather than see them become homeless.
• Mental health services and housing in Nassau County are nowhere near sufficient to meet the need, so again many seniors will choose to take a troubled adult child into their home rather than see them become homeless.
When a client has been experiencing abuse and it is necessary for the perpetrator to be removed from the home, FCA can assist the senior with accessing much needed supports designed to keep them safely at home in the community. Supports range from home care and home delivered meals to emotional support and advocacy. In addition, when the perpetrator is an adult child, the family can be referred to resources and programs to help their adult child who may need substance abuse or behavioral health assistance.
Safe Observant Seniors (SOS) is made possible with funding from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, Federal VOCA Victim & Witness Assistance Program, the New York State Office of Victim Services and Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc. However, personal funding from private donors goes directly to the provision of services to help ensure that programs stay strong and are able to serve more people.
The need of the community for elder abuse funding is reflected by the dramatic increase in referrals FCA is receiving. It is challenging to keep up with the demand given limited services, and for the first time SOS has had a wait list. Additionally, every few years the program is at risk to lose government funding. With your help, SOS can expand its ability to serve Long Island’s most vulnerable seniors.
For more information or to donate to this vital program, call (516) 485-3425 opt 3 or visit www.fcali.org.
Lisa Stern, LCSW-R is assistant vice president, Senior & Adult Services at FCA, is committed to promoting safety, respecting the right to self-determination and improving overall quality of life for Nassau County seniors.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here