Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan for a New Era for New York was unveiled earlier this year at her first State of the State address. Among the proposals to connect older New Yorkers to social supports, Governor Hochul articulated a commitment which would have a great impact on our clients and others similarly situated; the plan to establish an Elder Abuse Financial Exploitation Prevention Program in the Department of Financial Services (DFS). If implemented, this program might reduce the need for guardianship, and provide much needed support for New Yorkers to age safely.
Despite its prevalence, elder abuse, often in the form of financial exploitation, struggles to rise to prominence on city agendas. According to New York State Social Services Law Section 473 (6)(g), financial exploitation is defined as "the improper use of an adult’s funds, property, or resources by another individual. It includes, but is not limited to, fraud, false pretenses, embezzlement, conspiracy, forgery, falsifying records, coerced property transfers, and denial of access to assets, all of which are crimes under the law” (Office of the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases, 2017). It is estimated that 1 out of 24 older adults in New York are financially exploited (Office of the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases, 2017). Financial exploitation often goes unreported due to shame, and can cause the victim emotional and financial devastation. People subject to financial exploitation may end up losing their homes, access to quality care, and even their independence. Given this variability, each case of financial exploitation deserves multidisciplinary, multi-agency, and multi-systems responses. In order to establish the financial capacity of an individual, input from medical, legal, and judicial systems is required. Ending financial exploitation should be a priority in the cause of advancing health equity and reducing and eliminating elder abuse in New York.
Preventing elder financial abuse will alleviate the 1.5 million dollar costs these cases accrue annually (Office of the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases, 2017).