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OVERVIEW of ELDER ABUSE for COURT OFFICIALS NYC Elder Abuse Training Project.

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Presentation on theme: "OVERVIEW of ELDER ABUSE for COURT OFFICIALS NYC Elder Abuse Training Project."— Presentation transcript:

1 OVERVIEW of ELDER ABUSE for COURT OFFICIALS NYC Elder Abuse Training Project

2 What is Elder Abuse? the physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse or neglect of an older person by another person such as a family member, friend, fiduciary or caregiver

3 Perpetrators Often a family member – Adult child or grandchild – Financially dependent – Unemployed – Addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling – Mentally ill

4 Other Perpetrators Spouse Paid caregiver Fiduciary Neighbor “Friend”

5 Types of Elder Abuse Physical Abuse Sexual Abuse Neglect – Passive – Active Emotional Abuse Financial Exploitation

6 Why is it Important? In 2000, 45 million Americans over 60 By 2030 number expected to double Project increase in elder abuse More cases in court

7 Warning Signs Abuse: In Victim Inadequately explained wounds Dehydration or malnutrition Overly medicated or overly sedated Unusual confinement Lack of cleanliness or grooming Fear of speaking for oneself in presence of caretaker Shame, fear, embarrassment

8 Warning Signs of Abuse: In Abuser Conflicting stories Won’t let elder be interviewed alone Speaks for elderly person Handles elder roughly Substance abuse or gambling problem Previous history of abuse or violence Appears indifferent or angry toward older person Fails to assist older person

9 Barrier’s to Victim’s Testimony May fear retribution Abuser may be adult child or grandchild Fear of loss of caregiver Fear of nursing home placement Abuser may be spouse – fear of leaving relationship May be unable to testify due to mental or physical impairments

10 Supreme Court CRAWFORD Decision Crawford v Washington restricts admission of previously recorded statements when declarant unavailable for cross-examination Changes procedural landscape – More victims/witnesses will take stand – “Testimoniality” key criterion, trumps historical hearsay exceptions

11 Statutes Related to Elder Abuse In NYS, cases usually brought on conventional charges 4 statutes refer specifically to elderly and disabled victims

12 Statutes Related to Elderly and Disabled P.L.§ Endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person P.L.§ Endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person in the 2 nd Degree P.L. § Endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person in the 1 st degree P.L.§ Hate Crimes Act Of 2000 includes age and disability as targeting factors

13 Orders of Protection Appropriate for elderly victims – Stay away orders – Refrain orders – Exclusionary orders Can order a perpetrator to enter a drug or alcohol treatment program – Often what victim desires

14 Financial Exploitation Illegal or improper use of the resources of an older individual for personal benefit Can involve misuse of Power of Attorney or breach of fiduciary responsibility

15 Signs of Exploitation: In Victim Deviations in financial habits Numerous unpaid bills Checks made out to cash Elder unaware of monthly income Disparity between assets and lifestyle Belongings, financial papers, credit cards missing Recent will when elder clearly incapable Unprecedented transfer of assets

16 Signs of Exploitation: In Abuser Receives frequent expensive gifts from elder Asks only financial questions Refuses to spend money on elder’s care Misuses Power of Attorney

17 Criminal Charges NYS does not have statutes and charges specific to elder financial crimes Prosecutors pursue conventional charges

18 Types of Financial Exploitation Theft from bank accounts Money missing from joint accounts Misuse of a Power of Attorney Forgery of check or credit card signature Misuse of ATM or Debit Card Fraudulent will or property transfer Theft of money or property by home care aide Theft by fiduciaries

19 Capacity Decisions in exploitation cases can hinge on capacity determination Aspects of capacity – Capacity to sign contracts – Testamentary capacity – Testimonial capacity

20 Undue Influence Connotes excessive pressure “the substitution of one person’s will for the true desires of another” Using role and power to exploit trust, dependency and fear of victim Consequences can be devastating for victim

21 Factors that Increase Vulnerability Recent bereavement Physical disability Isolation Lack of knowledge of one’s own finances Cognitive impairment

22 Perpetrators Start with trusting relationship with victim Family members Caregivers Neighbors, friends Con artists Fiduciaries

23 Resources for Financial Management Financial management can be arranged for incapable or self-neglecting elderly via – Adult Protective Services – Area agencies on aging – Community agencies that serve the elderly

24 Aging and Intimate Partner Violence May worsen or change pattern Onset may be caused by dementia All laws that relate to domestic violence remain in place regardless of age Older women reluctant to acknowledge partner violence

25 Elder Abuse and Animal Cruelty Abused pet may indicate that elder in the home also abused – Abuser may abuse pet as way of intimidating and controlling the elder Neglected pet may mean elder neglected

26 Assisting Elderly Witnesses Testifying difficult for some – Traumatized by abuse – Ambivalent about acknowledging abuse – Confused about what has happened Compassion shown by court personnel can reduce trauma of testifying

27 Courtroom Considerations Court officer may help elderly person to the stand Ask if elderly witness needs water Observable fatigue or illness? Address elder by his or her last name Let witness know that your primary concern is allowing him or her to give testimony Speak slowly and clearly Be patient in waiting for a response

28 Testimonial Capacity If question about elder’s mental capacity, questions about date, time and place will indicate how person is functioning If elder does not have testimonial capacity, unsworn testimony may still add valuable information

29 Hearing Impaired Ask if person is having difficulty hearing Distortions of microphone may create hearing problems for older person Person may prefer written communication Visual cues are important Eliminate background noise if possible Establish eye contact before speaking

30 Hearing Impaired (Continued) Speak slightly louder than normal Do not speak quickly Do not over-articulate Use short simple sentences If person does not understand, rephrase If you cannot understand, ask person to repeat Use visual cues

31 Visually Impaired Elder may need more light to see well Glare can cause difficulty May need time to adjust to lighting in courtroom When written communication is needed – Ask if he or she needs reading glasses – Try larger print – May need to move text May not look directly at you as some see better in their peripheral zones

32 Dementia Overview Gradual deterioration in cognitive functioning Not a normal part of aging Greatest risk factor is age Some dementia-like symptoms can be reversed

33 Alzheimer’s Disease Most prevalent form of dementia Not reversible Early stages – recent events more difficult to recall – Periods of lucidity common “Masking” – victim deflects question he or she can’t answer – “I don’t have time for this” – “Don’t you know?”

34 Alzheimer’s Disease (Continued) Decline culminates in total dependency Later stages – Paranoia, delusions – Hallucinations – Agitation – Wandering

35 Cultural Issues Ethnic minority population growing No ethnic group immune to elder abuse Cultural factors may influence victim and family

36 Language May be barrier to use of court system Court needs to have impartial interpreter

37 Barriers to Court Participation Cultural norms of silent suffering and quiet endurance Great value on family interdependence Fear of social consequences Fear of legal system based on experience in country of origin Fear of deportation Likely to be dependent on abuser

38 Other Cultural Factors In some cultures, disrespectful to make eye contact with authority figure Culture plays significant role, but each case unique

39 Courtroom Obstacles Victim services agencies can assist with transportation to court and supportive services Optimal time of day scheduling can help elderly victims who may be affected by fatigue or intervals between meals or medication

40 Referral Elderly victims often need additional help Community agencies can provide services


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