By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Elder abuse in Central New York is more prevalent than many people may realize.
According to the New York State Committee for the Coordination of Police Services to the Elderly 2014 Annual Report, Onondaga County registered 156 cases of domestic abuse committed against those 65 and older. Oswego County saw 97 incidents, Cayuga had 36 and Madison had 30 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.
Stacie France, community response coordinator for Oswego County Opportunities, Inc. in Oswego, said that seniors don’t speak up for many reasons, including “fear of retaliation for reporting the abuse and fear the abuse will get worse after they report,” she said.
Abusers typically cut off the senior from the use of the phone, transportation and anyone outside. In cases where the abusers provide most or all of the care, they use that responsibility as leverage.
Many people find it much easier to report when the perpetrator is a stranger than to see a loved one get in trouble.
“A lot of elderly victims want to maintain a relationship with the abuser,” France said. “They just want the abuse to end.”
Many also fear they’ll have no place to go and will lose their possessions if their family member won’t care for them anymore. France added that moving seems unimaginable and unaffordable to many at this age.
“Many victims of abuse are isolated from friends, family, social support networks,” France said. “The abuser may be all that they have.”
The extent of control and abuse may have increased gradually and kept so quiet that victims think no one will believe them. Elderly victims may be marginalized by those who hear their story, as the caregiver rationalizes signs of abuse “by saying the person fell, they’re frail, bruise easily, it happened while trying to bathe or change the person or move them, the victim has Alzheimer’s or dementia and they can’t be believed, etc,” France said.
While some elderly persons receiving care may face cognitive challenges, they could still accurately relate what happened to them.
“Ageisim is still very prevalent,” France said. “Our society tends to regard older individuals as debilitated, incompetent, unworthy of attention and autonomy.”
Where to Get Help
For help, call:
• Onondaga County Adult & Long-Term Care Services: 315-435-3355
• Onondaga County Office for Aging: 315-435-2362
• Oswego County Office for the Aging: 315-349-3484
• Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 315-342-1600
• Cayuga County Office for the Aging: 315-253-1226
• Madison County Office for the Aging: 315-697-5700
• Adult Protective Services: 315-435-2815
• New York State Office for the Aging Information Line: 1-800-342-9871
• New York State Crime Victims Hotline: 1-800-771-7755