Doormen in New York City are currently being trained to protect elderly residents in the buildings where they work. This is an initiative started up by Joy Solomon of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention, based at the Hebrew Home in the Bronx.
Solomon came up with the scheme while working together with the Building Workers’ Union, training doormen to spot several kinds of elder abuse, whether psychological, financial, physical or sexual. The program is being grant-funded.
She told the media that “doormen know everything that’s going on” in the buildings. “They know who’s going in, who’s going out. They have access and they have a relationship of trust. They’re a friendly face.”
Basically, the doormen in the city will now look for particular signs of elder abuse. It might be the sudden arrival of a relative rarely seen by the elderly person; one with a bad attitude, for instance. It could be the appearance of a unexplained bruise. Maybe a stranger is suddenly collecting the elderly resident’s mail. In other words, all unusual occurrences that could be a harbinger of elder abuse.
Solomon reportedly started training people in elder abuse several years ago, but it has now been expanded to include other people who regularly have contact with the elderly, including doormen and Meals-on-Wheels delivery people.
According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, every set of eyes on the outlook counts in the fight against the abuse of the elderly. Solomons says that a 2011 study shows that only around 4 percent of the incidents of elder abuse are actually reported in New York.
She gave examples of various incidents of elder abuse to a training course of 15 doormen recently, including an elderly woman whose son stole her prosthetic leg and then sold it for money to buy drugs.
Solomon said that the theft not only gave him money for drugs, but it also kept his mother dependent on him, as she couldn’t get around. Unfortunately the woman’s son eventually drove her into a life of severe poverty and she has now had to move into a shelter.
But it is not always just the family abusing the elderly. There is a myriad of street scammers in New York City, ready to fleece the unsuspecting elderly, and even bank workers and telemarketers have been known to take advantage. According to a study which was run by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, elderly residents in America have lost around $2.9 billion each year to financial abuse.
According to Solomon, the doormen should basically “trust their gut feelings.” She says if they feel something is going on, they are probably correct. She teaches them to be on the alert for any signs of mental confusion or physical decline, which can lead to the person becoming vulnerable to abuse.
Examples she gave were that if a doorman should suspect that someone is stealing an elderly resident’s Social Security check, they should bring the mail direct to that tenant. Should they spot, for example, a daughter of the elderly resident walking out of the building with a painting, they should immediately mention it to the tenant. If the tenant responds with, “What painting?” the doorman will then know that the elderly person is unaware and is being taken advantage of.
Some of the doormen on the training courses became concerned that their jobs could be endangered should they report an unconfirmed suspicion. However, they have been told to report their suspicions anonymously to the New York City Adult Protect Services agency, who are apparently fully supportive of the training being offered. This system appears to work well, although apparently the agency cannot say how many of the calls they have received have emanated from the training given.
In the meantime it is reassuring indeed for elderly residents in New York City to know their friendly doormen are being trained to protect them.
By Anne Sewell
Kansas City Star
Image Courtesy of denisbin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License