New York Considering Strengthening Elder Abuse Laws

New York elder law advocates are currently working to get a new bill passed in the statehouse that would strengthen elder abuse laws. According to YNN Rochester, the senior care group Lifespan–one of the state’s largest senior support organizations–is leading the charge to change the law because of possible gaps that currently allow wrongdoers to escape punishment. As it presently stands one must be a paid caregiver to face most elder abuse charges. Possible changes to the law would seek to alter that, allowing more individuals to be held accountable if they abuse seniors after voluntarily assuming the role of caregiver.

Lifespan’s president and CEO noted that the group “saw so many case of elder abuse in which it was really unpaid people abusing elders in our community.”

The proposed bill has sponsors in both the House and Senate; however, the long-term prospects for the measure are still up in the air.

A report last year by Lifespan suggested that well over a quarter of a million seniors in our state are abused each year. The harm takes many forms, from passive ignorance of a senior’s needs to intentional physical and sexual abuse. In addition, a staggering 90% of the mistreatment is perpetrated by friends, family, and neighbors. The nature of the harm and the individuals who perpetrate it are one of the reasons why this abuse is so rarely caught. Estimates suggest that only one out of every twenty six cases of abuse is ever brought to the attention of authorities. Most seniors are taken advantage of in silence, without ever having redress or accountability.

The New York State Coalition on Elder Abuse suggests that the single most common type of abuse is New York senior financial exploitation. States across the country have similar problems, which has spurred efforts at the federal level to tighten laws protecting seniors from being taken advantage of financially. It is difficult for legislation to fully address the problem, however, because efforts like enhanced punishments are of little value if the wrongdoing is never uncovered in the first place. Financial abuse takes many forms, from slowly siphoning away retirement funds to shifting assets into the abuser’s name against a senior’s wishes. Unfortunately, it is sometimes too easy for these dealings to happen without anyone finding out.

The prevalence of financial abuse and the fact that it is most often conducted by relatives is why most efforts to combat the problem focus on providing better oversight from outside third-parties. New York elder law estate planning attorneys can play a crucial role in this effort. Having professionals keeping an eye on finances is a helpful way to ensure that suspicious money moves are investigated and theft attempts by unscrupulous relatives are caught.

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