September 24, 2014

Elder Abuse Problem Grows in Erie County

Elder abuse problem grows in Erie County


Outreach set for Senior Center on Sept. 23




With an increasingly aging population, there is a rise in the number of elder abuse cases in Erie County and across the United States.

“A very high percentage of Erie County’s population is over 60. People have more money as they age. The baby boomers especially are going to be one of the wealthier generations,” said Sarah Duval, a staff attorney for Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantage of W.N.Y. “Combine that with the recent recession and the economic hardships in Buffalo, it makes people extremely vulnerable to financial exploitation.”

In addition to financial abuse, elders are being abused physically, sexually and emotionally, and they’re also being neglected. Joseph Chudoba, a domestic violence victims’ advocate through the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, explained that abuse can also be self-imposed.

“Self-harm or self-neglect is a big deal,” he said, noting that types of self-neglect include forgoing food and medication and refusing medical treatment when necessary.

According to Erie County Protective Services for Adults, more than 1,500 cases of elder abuse are reported each year in Erie County, but many cases are never reported.

Abusers can include family members, spouses, intimate partners, ex-partners, friends, neighbors or caretakers.

“What our office sees, and the highest perpetrators of elder abuse, are family, friends, neighbors and loved ones,” Duval said. “We hear a lot about nursing home abuse, and that certainly happens, but not to the extent that it is people closest to the victims.”

Duval and Chudoba represent the Council on Elder Abuse. In Erie County, the CEA has provided education to seniors and senior services agencies since 2000.

The CEA includes law enforcement, the Erie County District Attorney’s office, Erie County agencies and many senior service providers. In addition to networking and educational opportunities, members work to identify gaps in service and ensure the best use of resources. Continued

. efforts to report and bring perpetrators of crimes to justice is a goal of the CEA.

One of the tools the CEA uses to get the message out are Safety Awareness for Elders, or SAFE, presentations. The one-hour program helps seniors learn to recognize the signs of elder abuse, income and asset protection and whom to call for help.

The CEA is partnering with the Erie County Legislature’s majority caucus for a series of elder abuse outreaches. Legislator Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca, will be holding one from 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Sept. 23, at the West Seneca Senior Center, 4620 Seneca St., West Seneca.

“The number of elder abuse cases [in Erie County] is way too high. Anything that we can do to help prevent it and help lower the number should be done,” Lorigo said.

Last month, the lawmaker attended one of the CEA’s monthly meetings and said he “learned a lot,” adding that in his position, he’s able to bring more “awareness to these types of organizations.”

Duval is optimistic that the outreaches, which are also being held in Cheektowaga, Hamburg,

Amherst, Orchard Park and Tonawanda, will reach many people and is also pleased to be partnering with the Legislature.

“At every one of these events we do, people come up to me after with stories,” Duval said. “Unfortunately, it’s such a damaging thing to have happen. If you can prevent it, that’s the best, because if you’re unable to, a lot of times the damage is done.”

To learn more about the CEA, go to www.councilonelder

To get help, call Erie County Protective Services for Adults at 858-6877. For crisis services, the advocate program and the 24-hour hotline, call 834-3131.

For additional information on the outreaches, contact the Erie County Legislature at 858-7500.