10/18/17 Event: From Ageism to Elder Abuse: A Forum Sponsored by The Radical Age Movement

On Wednesday evening, October 18, 2017, The Radical Age Movement welcomed attendees to the NY Society for Ethical Culture for a forum, From Ageism to Elder Abuse, to discuss elder abuse in a culture of age prejudice. 

Alice Fisher, founder of The Radical Age Movement, welcomed everyone.  “Here at Radical Age, we see the rise in elder abuse as the consequence of the age prejudice that permeates our society.”  “What message”, she asked, “is a grandson getting that allows him to steal his grandmother’s money with the explanation that ‘She’s old and doesn’t need her money any longer, while I can use the money now.’?”

Panel members included Jason Myles Clark, assistant attorney general in the Harlem Regional Office of the Office of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman;

Laura J. Ehrich, MSP, Associate State Director for AARP New York; Martha H. Pollack, LCSW-R, is JASA’s Manhattan District Director and the Director of Elder Abuse Programs; and Victoria Thornton, Volunteer Coordinator for the NY Senior Medicare Patrol program at Live-On NY.  The panel was moderated by Bobbie Sackman, M.S.W., former director of public policy at Live-On NY.

Sitting L. to R.: Martha Pollack, Victoria Thornton, Jason M. Clark, Laura Ehrich, and Bobbie Sackman

The statistics were grim.  Over 260,000 cases of elder abuse goes unreported each year in the United States.  This number reflects only 1/24 elder abuse cases reported and only 1/44 financial elder abuse reported.

What Elder Abuse Look Like

Martha Pollack, from JASA gave a description of the six different types of elder abuse perpetrated on older adults.  They are financial, psychological, emotional, neglect, sexual, and physical.  Each of these can take place individually or simultaneously. By far, the most common form of elder abuse is financial exploitation…usually undertaken by family members. 

Financial Fraud is Elder Abuse.  

We then heard from Jason Clarke of the NYS Attorney General’s office who talked about the different kinds of financial abuse that come from outside the victim’s circle of family and ‘friends’.  In this case the abuser is not targeting one individual person but rather a group of people targeted by age and demographics.  Most of this type of abuse comes in the form of a phone call from a “trustworthy” con artist and often presents an impractical deadline; i.e.  “We need your money right now.” 

Manipulating tactics may include: Calling with a phony message that a grandson or granddaughter is in jail and needs bail money right away.  Fake IRS calls, which are NEVER from the IRS.  Suggestions that the victim should put the money on a gift card.

Equifax Breach

Mr. Clarke then went on to mention the Equifax breach which was not targeted to any specific group of people.  We were all vulnerable.  143 million Americans have been affected, including 8 million New Yorkers.  If you suspect that your information was compromised, here are some suggestions from the Attorney General’s office:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you do not recognize could indicate identity theft. This is a free service.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. It will not prevent a thief from using any of your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for unauthorized charges. Call the credit card company or bank immediately about any charges you do not recognize.
  • Since Social Security numbers were affected, there is risk of tax fraud. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Consider filing your taxes early and pay close attention to correspondence from the IRS.
  • Since hackers may have access to personal contact info, New Yorkers should remain vigilant against possible hacking and phishing attempts by cybercriminals. 

“Red Flags”

We then heard from Laura Ehrich from AARP who warned that these predators often try to get people in a heightened state of disarray where they are not thinking clearly. She then described the “red flags” that we should be aware of.

  • Don’t make purchases when your emotions are high.
  • Don’t answer personal questions.
  • Do your research before purchasing.
  • Do not let other people control the conversation.
  • Develop a rehearsal script.

Medicare and Medicaid Scams

 Victoria Thornton of Live-On NY gave us an overview of Medicare and Medicaid scams, Medical identity theft, and hospital and nursing home fraud.

Medicare and Medicaid scams incur losses of over $140 billion.  These agencies are lacking in any process to ascertain if claims are duplicated or false.  The onus is on the patient to catch these erroneous charges.  An example that Victoria presented was a physician’s bill for ear surgery when all that was performed was an earwax removal procedure. We were advised to check our statements to be certain that doctors’ names, dates, and care received are accurate.

When it comes to medical identity theft, we need to be aware that people can obtain Medicare numbers and submit false claims which may result in charges for co-pay and co-insurance.  Further, when a scammer uses our benefits, we are unable to claim those benefits in the same cycle.

The last item on the list of medical fraud is perpetrated by hospitals and nursing homes.

A common practice is sending patients back and forth from nursing home to hospital, which is extremely detrimental to the health of older adult.  Admitting the patient for 3 days in a hospital allows the nursing home to then collect another 20 days of Medicare coverage for the patient.  In ordinary circumstances, Medicare only pays for one month of rehab or nursing home care after a hospital stay.  MEDICARE DOES NOT PAY FOR LONG TERM CARE.

A most important warning is to protect your Medicare number, which for now is the same as your Social Security number. (Medicare will be issuing new i.d. numbers over the next year or two, which will not be the same as your Social Security number).

A summary of precautions to take to avoid medical fraud consists of:

  • Protect your Medicare number by making a copy of your Medicare card blocking out all by the the last 4 numbers of your i.d.
  • Take a picture of your card with your smart phone.
  • Review all Medicare and Medicaid statements and report incorrect fees.

The final piece of advice for the evening was for all of us to be proactive by organizing our health affairs before we are sick.  This generally means to have your health directives, health care proxy and power of attorney, in order.

There was a lively exchange during Q & A.  Everyone left feeling much wiser about understanding the various forms that elder abuse takes and how we can all protect ourselves and those dear to us.