Experts say only one in 24 cases are usually reported
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Elder abuse is more prevalent in Rochester than many people may realize. According to the NYS Committee for the Coordination of Police Services to the Elderly 2014 Annual Report, Monroe County had 373 cases of domestic abuse committed against those 65 and older. Ontario County had 34 cases of elderly abuse while Wayne County had 39 cases.
The report further determined that only one in 24 cases of elder physical abuse in the community is ever reported to authorities, indicating the problem is far more widespread.
The report provides the most recent local information available.
Debra Kostiw owns Home Helpers in Rochester, which provides in-home services to older adults. Kostiw is a certified trainer for the Alzheimer’s Association. Her late mother, while in her 80s, suffered physical and financial abuse and neglect from another family member. Unfortunately, Kostiw hears this kind of story often.
“Almost every person I talk with about what I went through with my mom has a story about someone who’s been abused,” she said. “It’s a huge, huge problem.”
Kostiw said that family members commit most of the violence against senior persons, with only 14 percent caused by paid aides at home or in a facility.
She said that holds true locally as well, whether it stems from drug abuse, history of violence or lack of information. Some caregiving situations may begin well, but deteriorate.
“They are just completely overwhelmed and uneducated about the caregiving process,” Kostiw said. “They’re so frustrated and at their wit’s ends and don’t know they need to seek help.”
Another factor lies in the physical and mental health needs of the elder declining with age. Their growing needs may exceed their caregiver’s capacity to provide care.
According to Kostiw, many prosecutors don’t want to take elder abuse cases because they’re difficult to win and they don’t understand how to communicate with seniors who may have cognitive disabilities.
Kostiw offers free training to help law enforcement, attorneys and case managers to better understand how to communicate effectively with elderly victims. She feels strongly that if more cases are prosecuted, the statistics on elder abuse can decrease.
For help, call:
• LIFESPAN’S Elder Abuse Prevention Program
• Monroe County Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services 585 753-6532
• New York State Office for the Aging Information Line
• New York State Crime Victims