With the third-largest elderly population in the country, New York State is surprisingly behind the times when it comes to protecting the elderly from abuse. Experts estimate that only one out of fourteen incidents are actually reported to authorities, putting the actual number of elder abuse cases at an epidemic level.
The Buffalo Business Journal's recent report, "A look at elder law in New York," explains that the most debilitated and neglected members of the community—the frail elderly, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, and the abused and exploited—need added legal protection. This need to provide help for them will continue to grow as the population ages and as family ties are strained with the burden of illness.
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 states that have enacted statutes designed to protect senior citizens against financial abuse, but New York hasn't yet followed suit.
Nursing home facilities responsible for senior citizen care 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.
New York is one of only three states not to have mandatory reporting of elder abuse. In addition, New York does not address theft from a mentally impaired person. Lacking strong laws that would protect the elderly and vulnerable, prosecution of abusers is difficult for the judicial system. As the number of abuse cases continues to grow, it is incumbent on the state to update its laws.
Reference: Buffalo Business Journal (April 19, 2016) "A look at elder law in New York"