Erie County: More Than 300 Cases of Elder Abuse

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Elder abuse Western 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, Erie County registered 311 cases of domestic abuse committed against those 65 and older; Niagara County had 70 in the same period.

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.

“It is incredibly under-reported,” said Sarah Duval, supervising attorney with the Center for Elder Law & Justice in Buffalo, which provides free services to nine counties in Western New York. “The majority of elder abuse that we see is perpetrated by family, friends and caregivers.”

She added that many times, the seniors who eventually come forward say that they waited initially because of their relationship with the abuser. It’s hard to turn in their own child, as it reflects poorly on themselves as parents. They may feel they’re betraying the family.

“There’s also an element of isolation,” Duval said. “Many don’t report because they can’t or it’s not safe.”

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.

“They might say, ‘If I won’t take care of you, who will? You’ll end up in a nursing home,’” Duval said. “That’s a very strong tactic to remain in power and in control.”

For help, call:

• Erie County Adult Protection Services/Elder Abuse, 716-858-6877

• Center for Elder Law & Justice, 844-296-6404 (toll free) or 716-853-3087

• New York State Office for the Aging Information Line, 1-800-342-9871

• New York State Crime Victims Hotline, 1-800-771-7755