|North County Officials Stand Against Elder Abuse|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
02:53PM / Monday, July 02, 2012
|Mayor Richard Alcombright, Police Lt. David Sacco, Triad President Pearl Mullett, Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, Maureen Tuggey, of Elder Services of the Berkshires, Williamstown Council on Aging Director Brian O'Grady and Adams Council on Aging Director Erica Samson all took a stand against the growing number of cases of elder abuse.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — If a contractor says an elder's home needs a new chimney or a letter in the mail asks them to cash a check, call the Council on Aging, police or Elder Services immediately because crimes against the elderly are increasing, local officials told a group at the Brien Center's Adult Day Program on Monday.
The Brien Center recognized state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi with a certificate thanking her for taking a stand against elder abuse and her work in the state house to fund service organizations.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, called on the mayor and leaders of elder programs to take a stand against elder abuse. The response is in the wake of Gov. Deval Patrick declaring June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
"There are always unscrupulous people preying on people who are vulnerable," Cariddi said. "The Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs statistics say that there were 18,000 reports of abuse in 2011, which was an increase from the year before. The increase is obviously worrisome. On the state level we've tried to maintain funding for all of the important programs and protections that are out there for seniors."
Those programs include Triad, Elder Services of Berkshire County and the local councils on aging. Representatives from those organizations told the seniors about the programs they offer and how to contact them.
Police Lt. David Sacco told the seniors that if something doesn't feel right — such as a contractor saying they want to look at the safety of windows, an anonymous phone call or email asking them to cash a check and send them money — call the police.
"One of things we are seeing more and more with the elderly is the scams that are out there," Sacco said. "Before you sign that first check, before you hit reply to that email, have someone check that out for you... the people that are out there are very clever, they are very good and they know what they are doing."
The Triad program is one of the resources senior citizens have to provide advice, he said. The program, a collaboration between the District Attorney's office, police departments and senior organizations, has an array of programs to protect the seniors — from providing a place to dispose of medications to providing advice, he said.
Pearl Mullett, president of the North Adams Triad, said not only are there monthly meetings that are informative about the crimes happening in the community but they will also have programs to share information with emergency responders.
"Our goal in Triad is to protect you," Mullett said, adding some advice about an increasing number of telephone scams. "Don't even talk to those people. If you didn't call them, don't talk to them but the sad thing is that people are talking to them."
Mayor Richard Alcombright read a city citation advocating for additional vigilance in fighting elder abuse.
Combating frauds at the Adams Council on Aging, Director Erica Samson said the group is hosting an upcoming meeting with bankers about the various scams and the best ways to protect money. If there is a case, Samson said COA staff knows how to get the information to the right people so nobody should hesitate to ask.
"Don't be afraid to call us. We'll sit down and have coffee with you, hear what you have to say and share it with the appropriate people," Samson said.
Williamstown Council on Aging Director Brian O'Grady said he also has no problem being the bad guy when it comes to reporting cases of abuse. Many times it is family member of friends doing the fraud and escalates because it is never reported, he said.
"Abusers are frequently people we'd never would have suspected...they're not all evil looking characters lurking in the bushes looking to defraud people," O'Grady said. "You have to tell someone. In a lot of cases people don't want to call the police because that's going to cause an issue. Call your Council on Aging director, we'll drop everything at that moment in time and help you sort it out and tell you where to go. If you don't want to call somebody, we'll call for you. We don't mind being the bad guy."
The National Center for Elder Abuse estimates that 1 in 14 cases are never reported to authorities.
Not only do councils on aging provide advice and have the connections, the daily operations provide seniors with a safe environment for recreational, meals and exercise programs to look after the aging population.
"We like to think of ourselves as a home away from home," O'Grady said.
Samson said that all of the councils on aging work together in the Northern Berkshires. If there is a program offered in Williamstown, the Adams COA will transport the senior to that program and vice versa, she said. Across the state, about 45 percent of seniors have received service from a COA, Cariddi said.
It is not just frauds that threaten seniors, neglect is also a form of abuse. Maureen Tuggey, director of client services at Elder Services, said they provide a variety of programs that provides meals, education for caregivers and for health care.
"Not only is it important to provide services to the individual but it is also important to recognize the caregiver. I think in instances where there is caregiver neglect, it is benign neglect. It's the caregivers doing the best they can in difficult situations but they don't have perhaps the understanding of the process or they don't have the help that they need," Tuggey said. "The programs that we offer at Elder Services can alleviate the caregiver stress and allow this caregiver some respite."
It is common for the Berkshire Elder Protective Services to receive 100 or more reports a month and while they may not all be substantial, people are sharing the information that they need, she said.
"Everybody has to be vigilant when it comes to helping our parents," Cariddi said.
Mayor Richard Alcombright issued a city citation advocating for everyone, residents and organizations, to be well aware and vigilant of elder abuse.
Pittsfield officials took a similar stand against abuse last month.