Unbelievably, only one out of 14 domestic elder abuse incidents are reported to authorities. The problem will only continue to grow as our population ages with the American family financially and emotionally stretched to the breaking point. Unfortunately, New York's laws are still lagging behind in their effort to protect this vulnerable population.
According to Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, "The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be roughly $2.9 billion, up 12 percent since 2006. Abusers have proven to be strangers, caregivers and even family members." Schimminger cites a federal study that found seniors are often vulnerable to financial exploitation because of their mental and physical limitations. There are 29 other states that have enacted statutes designed to protect senior citizens against financial abuse, but New York hasn't followed suit -yet.
Nursing home facilities responsible for senior citizen care have not provided a safe haven for seniors either. Too many have caused injury due to improper care, lack of care, and—in some cases—intentional physical abuse. Elder abuse can be difficult to detect because the signs aren't immediately apparent and the abuse can be hidden in secrecy.
Schimminger and Sen. Patrick Gallivan introduced legislation in an attempt to aid the prosecution of those who victimize the elderly. The legislation made it to committee where it remained through 2014 until the legislative session ended. The bills were reintroduced in February 2015 and again are in committee.
One success with legislation in this area is a bill that amended the law which previously allowed a caregiver or professional social worker to accompany a child under the age of 12 into the grand jury proceeding. Now, a vulnerable elderly person may have the same companion for the grand jury proceedings, with the prosecutor's consent.