The NYC Elder Abuse Center welcomes Martha Pollack, LCSW, Queens District Director and Director of Elder Abuse Programs at JASA, the largest agency serving older adults in the New York metropolitan area.
Here Martha shares highlights from the recent New York City Elder Abuse Conference, which was held on May 23, 2012. Professionals gathered for a day of networking and learning about ways to better serve victims of elder abuse.
This year’s conference entitled, Stopping Elder Abuse: Preparedness and Early Intervention was held at the New School in lower Manhattan. The conference offered inter-disciplinary strategies for assisting vulnerable older adults.
The keynote speaker, Bob Abrams, a well-respected elder care attorney and advocate for the elderly, spoke passionately about the need for planning and actions that protect the individual from being exploited. His presentation included explanations of health care proxies, wills, and other legal instruments. This key note topic was in keeping with the conference’s overall theme of the importance of assisting older adults prepare for their financial security and ensure that their wishes regarding their health and finances are followed.
The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion that focused on the challenges of promoting elder autonomy and decision-making. Speaking from the perspectives of law, medicine and psychiatry, the presenters utilized examples from their own practices.
The multidisciplinary nature of the panel set the tone for ten workshops that were offered throughout the day. Topics included:
- Building partnerships with law enforcement to assist seniors in accessing the legal system for protection. Particular attention was given to learning about the needs of homebound clients requiring special consideration when applying for legal protection through the courts.
- Interviewing skills and how to foster effective multidisciplinary, multi-agency collaborations for resolving complex elder abuse situations.
- Other workshops focused on identifying and serving populations that are at higher risk for mistreatment including:
- clients dependent on caregivers who have their own psychological , financial and health-related issues,
- grandparents and other elders caring for minors,
- isolated older adults who are financially abused through identity theft or financial exploitation.
Important Conference Takeaways for Professionals
- Professionals and family members should assist older adults with being proactive in planning. By safeguarding their financial and physical well-being, the older adult has more control over their decisions regarding how they want to live their final years.
- Utilizing the spectrum of community resources and building collaborations among skilled practitioners in the fields of law, social work, medicine, psychiatry and finance will enable professionals working with the elderly to advocate and intervene effectively.
- The rights of all individuals to make their own decisions should be respected.
- The community at large should continue to be educated about the risks and incidence of elder abuse.
Other Notes About the Conference
Opening Remarks: The day began with greetings from Aileen Gitelson, CEO of JASA and Joy Solomon, Directing and Managing Attorney for the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale and both of these organizations are pioneers in the development of programs and services that address elder abuse and neglect.
Greetings continued with Michael Markowitz, Director of the New School Institute for Retired Professionals and Lin Saberski, Deputy Commissioner of the Human Resource Administration /Department of Social Services. Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Commissioner of the NYC Department for the Aging, noted that she will be working to baseline funding for elder abuse programs in the Department’s budget for FY14. NYC Council Member, Jessica Lappin, Chair of the Committee on Aging, pledged her ongoing support for aging services. Her office underwrote the cost of a new brochure entitled Elder Abuse: How to recognize it and get help, which was prepared in collaboration with members of the New York City Elder Abuse Network (NYCEAN).
Conference Dedication: This year, the conference was dedicated to the memory of Jane Fiffer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Long Term Care and Active Aging at the NYC Department for the Aging. Ms. Fiffer was a deeply committed and well respected colleague who worked to promote the well being of older adults throughout NYC. She was instrumental in the planning of the first NYC Elder Abuse Conference in 2005.
Conference Sponsorship: The conference was sponsored by JASA, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, David Berg Center for Law and Aging, New York City Department for the Aging, Carter Burden Center for the Aging, The New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services, Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC, Inc., The New School Institute for Retired Professionals, and Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. These agencies provided both the financial and personnel resources for implementing this important annual conference.
Special thanks to my colleagues for their guidance and assistance in planning the conference: Pat Brownell (Fordham University), Amy Chalfy (JASA), Donna Dougherty (JASA), Alan Ferster (APS), Amanda Leis (CSCS), Linda Leveen (Weinberg Center, Hebrew Home at Riverdale), Ken Onaitis (Carter Burden Center), Joshua Rotkin (JASA), and Aurora Salamone (DFTA).
Martha H. Pollack, LCSW is the Queens District Director and Director of Elder Abuse Programs for Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA). She has worked in the field of geriatric social work in New York City for over 25 years.