submitted by Melissa Woods

During these unusual times, Center for Elder Law and Justice is maintaining normalcy in its work in the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit. We are actively accepting new cases through both individual callers and agency referrals.

Unfortunately, social isolation is prevalent during the COVID-19 outbreak, inevitably leading to loneliness, depression, and vulnerability. The work performed by our Elder Abuse Prevention Unit is vital to protect clients from these consequences of. We are honored to continue our mission of providing high quality legal services for clients, who need us now more than ever.

Our staff have assembled information for clients who want to speak with a health care professional about the option of telemedicine. Telemedicine is a great resource for individuals who need treatment but cannot go to their doctor’s office or a hospital. CELJ staff can walk older adults through what is needed for a telemedicine appointment and what they can expect from the appointment. This information puts individuals’ minds at ease knowing that they can practice social distancing and still receive treatment or medical advice.

The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit is also continuing to intervene when individuals are victims of a scam. CELJ understands when people are afraid and socially isolated, they become increasingly vulnerable. Scammers often use these circumstances to their advantage. Social distancing can increase the likelihood of scam activity because someone’s only form of human contact may be through a computer or telephone; the most common avenues that scammers use for victimization. Our staff are actively conducting check-in calls to clients to make sure that they have access to necessary resources in a stable environment.

Many clients have expressed that they are afraid to leave their homes due to the increased risk of infection. However, many clients do not have family or friends who can bring groceries and other essentials. We have compiled a list of local stores that have special senior hours for older adults to shop when the customer capacity is lower, reducing the risk of infection. CELJ had several clients relay how happy they are to hear this news.

CELJ operates an active blog that contains information about temporary changes in laws, such as eviction postponement, emergency declarations, and other government actions that are affecting victims of crime. The blog (https://elderjusticeny.org/covid-19-what-new-yorkers-need-to-know/) offers its readers up to the minute information and provides links to community resources.

We also run a free helpline that has been opened to the public, regardless of age, during the COVID-19 outbreak. The helpline is staffed with attorneys who provide free legal assistance to callers on a variety of issues. When an individual calls who is a victim of elder abuse, the caller is automatically transferred to CELJ’s Elder Abuse Prevention unit staff. Helpline hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-11am, and the phone number is: 1-844-481-0973.

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