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Queens Chronicle

Experts talk elder abuse in Queens

Social workers, attorneys discuss the issue at meeting of QICA

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2018 10:30 am

A recently established team in Queens is aiming to change the way elder abuse cases are treated.

The enhanced multidisciplinary team, a product of the New York City Elder Abuse Center, brings together social workers, police officers and doctors, among others, to help manage the most challenging cases.

“We’re each doing our own part and doing great individually,” said Kristen Kane, chief of the Elder Fraud Unit at the Queens District Attorney’s Office. “But we achieve the best and broadest results by bringing all these disciplines and agencies together.”

Kane moderated a panel on elder abuse at the Queens Interagency Council on Aging on Wednesday morning at Borough Hall.

Before the panel discussion, QICA President Barry Klitsberg asked attendees if they knew an elderly person who had been abused. Half of the 60 people raised their hands.

Asked for examples of elder abuse, the crowd didn’t hesitate.

“Verbal abuse,” one woman said.

“Financial exploitation,” another said.

“Physical abuse,” a man said.

New approaches to preventing and dealing with abuse are much needed in Queens, panelists said. The borough is home to half a million people age 60 or older, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. Only Brooklyn has a larger 60-plus population.

“If you’re not paying attention to seniors, then you’re missing out on the boat about the true demographic of Queens County,” said City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside).

The first multidisciplinary team launched in Brooklyn in 2010, followed by one in Manhattan three years later. The Queens team formed in mid-September and meets twice a month to brainstorm the most difficult cases encountered in the borough.

By the end of this year, a team will be up and running in each borough, said Khi-Lynn Johnson, the multidisciplinary team coordinator for Manhattan.

Once the group discusses a case, it develops an action plan for pairing older people with services. Those can range from therapy sessions to help navigating housing court.

Dr. Veronica LoFaso, a geriatrician, said that before she joined a multidisciplinary team, she didn’t understand why it took so long for Adult Protective Services to process a case.

“There’s so much involved,” LoFaso said. “You need more than one person in a cubicle somewhere trying to deal with the complexity of these cases.”

Cases are particularly challenging when there’s more than one abuser, panelists said, or the abuser also helps take care of the elderly person.

There have been some positive changes in the field, said Peg Horan, senior program coordinator at the New York City Elder Abuse Center.

“People are finally starting to get smart about it,” she said. “We can’t ignore the suffering of older people. They’ve given us everything.”

New Yorkers who suspect someone they know someone who might be suffering from elder abuse are encouraged to call the abuse center’s help line at (212) 714-6905.

“This is a largely preventable problem,” said Horan. “Know that there is help for anyone you know.”

Welcome to the discussion.