April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Jewish Home’s SeniorHaven Shelter Holds Professional Panel on Elder Abuse

The Jewish Home Family assembled a panel of professionals to speak about identifying and helping to prevent elder abuse at a community breakfast held on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The panel included a police officer (Detective Peter Martin, River Vale Police Department), Pharmacist (Bryan Brunner, Lead Clinical Pharmacist, IPPC), Elder Law Attorney (Michael D. Lissner, Lissner & Lissner LLP), Banker (Nancy M. Mackowiak, Sussex Bank Compliance and Community Investment Act [CRA] Officer) and Physician (Dr. Harvey R. Gross, MD, Medical Director, Jewish Home at Rockleigh).

Moderated by Jewish Home Family President and CEO Carol Silver Elliott, the panelists offered anecdotes and tips to fellow professionals and community members in attendance, followed by a question and answer period.

“I think we are all well aware that elder abuse is a huge problem,” Silver Elliott opened the panel explaining. “In the US, estimates are that there are 3.5 to 5 million victims of elder abuse every year. We also know that a very small number of these people are identified or receive any help. Many of these cases go unreported and unrecognized and many of these people live out their lives in ways that none of us would like them to experience. We got involved in the elder abuse movement about a year ago, when we opened SeniorHaven for Elder Abuse Prevention, the 14th elder abuse shelter in the country—and the only one in NJ.”

“What would someone at a bank know about elder abuse?” asked Sussex Bank’s Mackowiak. “It may surprise you to find out that the teller at your branch who you see regularly is one of your greatest allies.” She explained that bank tellers get to know clients through small-talk and are obligated to report anything suspicious, whether it comes up in conversation or through red flags in the form of transactions.

Detective Martin spoke about the steep rise in cases of scammers targeting seniors. He also spoke about the difficulty of police getting involved when the abuse is familial and financial—a common form of elder abuse.

Elder Attorney Lissner had a number of cautionary tales. “Nobody calls me with good news,” he said. He told of a client whose beloved home health aide had drafted a completely new will, leaving all of her possessions to her, when she clearly had advanced dementia. That case remains in court. He advises clients to leave money out on purpose in the early days of hiring a new home health aide, to ensure that the person is not a thief.

Pharmacist Brunner spoke about the pharmacist’s role, not only in spotting abuse, but identifying “doctor-shopping” and misuse of prescription meds by caregivers, using the senior to obtain narcotics.

Lastly, Dr. Gross spoke about official tools developed for screening for abuse. “The one I like best is the Elder Abuse Suspicion Index,” he said. The index involves 5 simple questions that can be highly predictive in identifying an elder abuse situation. He lamented that the US Preventative Services Task Force decided that there was “insufficient evidence to screen for elder abuse,” but said that the situation is improving, with many other groups encouraging screenings.

The entire panel can be viewed at: http://goo.gl/AKLNVD.

In addition to providing shelter, part of the mission of SeniorHaven is to offer educational seminars throughout the community. If you would like to bring a speaker to educate about elder abuse prevention at your communal organization, school or workplace, write to [email protected] or call 201-518-1176.

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