There was a party going on recently at Jefferson’s Ferry Foundation’s 19th Annual Gala in support of its Resident Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to Jefferson’s Ferry residents who outlive their assets or experience a shortfall through no fault of their own. Reflective of this year’s “New York State of Mind” theme, partygoers posed with “NYC taxi cabs” to kick off the event. Pictured here: (L to R:) Jefferson’s Ferry residents Ruth Weinreb, Rose Modica, Josephine Pheffer, Jean Grunwald and Dolores Dellova. (Photo by resident Martin Cohen)

Popular Fundraiser Benefits the Foundation’s Resident Assistance Fund 

Every spring for nearly 20 years, Jefferson’s Ferry residents, donors, and vendors have joined Jefferson’s Ferry management, staff and board members to support the Jefferson’s Ferry Foundation at its annual gala fundraiser on April 18. This year was no exception. The party, held at Flowerfield in St. James, celebrated the vibrant community, active lifestyle, and peace of mind that can be found in abundance at Jefferson’s Ferry. 

All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Foundation’s Resident Assistance Fund, which was established in 2006 to provide financial assistance to Jefferson’s Ferry residents who outlive their assets or experience a shortfall through no fault of their own. Over the years, the Resident Assistance Fund has played a role in upholding the Life Plan Community Promise of peace of mind and health care for Jefferson’s Ferry residents by subsidizing the monthly fees of residents in need.

This year, the gala gave a nod to New York City nightlife with “A New York State of Mind” theme. Party-goers enjoyed live music by the Jazz Loft, dancing, New York-style hor d’oeuvres, casino-style gaming and hand-rolled cigars. 

With Jefferson’s Ferry’s “Journey Towards Renewal” renovation and expansion project a hair shy of completion–the new Memory Support Neighborhood is due to open in the coming weeks — the gala honored the two architectural and design firms critical to the project, KDA Architects and Merlino Design Partnership (MDP). Principal architect and KDA Partner David Fowles and principal designer and MDP President Bruce Hurowitz were on hand to accept their honors. 

“The outpouring of generosity in support of the Jefferson’s Ferry Foundation and the Resident Assistance Fund is deeply gratifying and demonstrative of the strong community bond we enjoy here at Jefferson’s Ferry,” said President and CEO Bob Caulfield. “We have neighbors helping neighbors through the Resident Assistant Fund and in so many other less tangible but no less important ways. It’s one of the many reasons Jefferson’s Ferry is such a singular community.”  

Photo Caption:  There was a party going on recently at Jefferson’s Ferry Foundation’s 19th Annual Gala in support of its Resident Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to Jefferson’s Ferry residents who outlive their assets or experience a shortfall through no fault of their own. Reflective of this year’s “New York State of Mind” theme, partygoers posed with “NYC taxi cabs” to kick off the event.  Pictured here: (L to R:) Jefferson’s Ferry residents Ruth Weinreb, Rose Modica, Josephine Pheffer, Jean Grunwald and Dolores Dellova.  (Photo by resident Martin Cohen)

About Jefferson’s Ferry

Jefferson’s Ferry is a not-for-profit Life Plan Community for active adults aged 62 and above, with Independent Living cottages and apartments, assisted living apartments, and a quality health care center all on one site.  A multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation project, “The Journey Toward Renewal,” is part of a larger strategic initiative launched in 2018 to create a life-enriching environment for all new and current residents at every stage of their life. Journey to Renewal has added 60 one- and two-bedroom independent living apartments, provided six distinct dining venues, an expanded Healthy Living Center, Fitness Center, and its state-of-the-art Rehabilitation Therapy Center. A new Memory Support Neighborhood will provide a high quality of life and care for people diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases. Common areas in Assisted Living and the Health Care Center will be renovated.

Jefferson’s Ferry offers exceptional living and amenities, including indoor pool, computer center, library, recreational areas, gardens, and gazebos.  A mix of cultural excursions, civic activities, and a community of residents who help shape Jefferson’s Ferry’s future ensures a spirited and engaged lifestyle.  

The Vincent Bove Health Center at Jefferson’s Ferry enjoys a 5-star rating from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and was named a “Best Of” nursing home by U.S. News & World Report.  Jefferson’s Ferry has repeatedly earned the industrywide Community Choice Award for resident satisfaction and engagement and has been recognized with the Pinnacle Quality Insight’s Customer Experience Award for five years running. FitchRatings has assigned Jefferson’s Ferry a BBB bond rating.  Jefferson’s Ferry has consistently been voted Best Retirement Community, Best Nursing Home and Best Assisted Living on Long Island by The Long Island Press and has been recognized for Excellence by the Hauppauge Industrial Association’s Business Achievement Awards program.  

For more information visit

Photo courtesy of LI Game Farm

The Foundation for Wildlife Sustainability will kick off a new season of the Senior Social Club at Long Island Game Farm, 489 Chapman Blvd. in Manorville on Friday April 12.  Senior citizens (65 years+) can visit the animals, explore the trails, attend a presentation in Woodland Hall, and enjoy a beverage and snacks with fellow seniors. This event will take place on the second and fourth Friday of the month from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

“We’re excited to bring back our Senior Social Club for another season,” shares Long Island Game Farm
president Melinda Novak. “We introduced this program last year and it was a hit! Now working with our new
nonprofit arm, the Foundation for Wildlife Sustainability, we can expand our educational programming across
the game farm. It’s very special to have a social club for our senior community and offer ways for them to
connect with nature, animals, and each other.”

Each week guests will begin by exploring the grounds, visiting animals, and learning more about the various
species at the game farm. A presentation in Woodland Hall will follow, with topics varying each week from
rescued animals to wonders of wool, birding to nature photography, and more.

Tickets are $10 per person and for seniors only. Please do not bring grandchildren. Pets are not allowed. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made by calling 631-878-6644. Learn more at

The Town of Smithtown Senior Citizen Center will celebrate 35 years of providing nutritious meals to senior residents this Spring. To mark the occasion, Senior Center members, volunteers and staff will commemorate the anniversary with a pre-lunch soiree on April 26 at 11 a.m.. Members who RSVP will enjoy light fare and celebrations prior to sitting down for a nutritional lunch.

Preparations are currently underway as staff members mark the 35th anniversary of providing nutritious meals to local senior citizen residents. The Smithtown Senior Citizen Center will also recognize its caterer; Zan’s Kosher Deli in Lake Grove for dedicating 20 years of service to the program.

“They say nothing brings people together quite like a good meal. That especially rings true for the nutrition programs… For nearly 45 years the senior center has been a gathering place where friendships are forged and our wisest generation can find the support, resources and tools they need to maintain their independence at home longer. None of this would be remotely possible or successful without the magnificent staff and volunteers who treat our members like family. This program is invaluable to our community and I look forward to celebrating the milestone together with our center community in April,” said Smithtown Town Supervisor Edward R. Wehrheim.

Smithtown Senior Citizens Department will acknowledge four and a half decades in operation, fostering a positive environment of friendship, support and independence since the opening of the center.  The primary emphasis of the day’s festivities will celebrate 35 years of the nutrition program, promoting vital social interactions to enrich senior residents’ lives, encouraging health and well-being. Recognition will also be paid to a remarkable staff and dedicated volunteers, who ensure the growth and effectiveness of nutrition programming at the center.

“What a pleasure it is to be an integral part of the lives of our extraordinary seniors. Our senior community possesses a wealth of wisdom and life experience, not to mention a sense of humor! I am very proud of the profound impact the programs we offer here at the senior center have had on the lives of our seniors. These wonderful nutrition programs would not exist and be as successful without the outstanding efforts made by invaluable staff, volunteers, and of course, Zan’s! It is a great joy to celebrate these milestones together and take time to reflect on all the good work that’s been done throughout the years. We look forward to many more years of success and continuing to find new and productive ways to service the senior community of Smithtown,” said Doreen Perrino, Program Director, Senior Citizens Department.

The nutrition program known as the Congregate Lunch Program (weekday lunch) presently serves approximately 175 seniors weekly. Aside from essential nutritional benefits, this service offers a special habitat for residents to engage in conversation, camaraderie and laughter over a nourishing meal daily. Residents ages 60 and over are invited to participate in this social setting.

Lunch is served Monday through Friday 11:45 a.m. Registration for this program is on a first-come, first-served basis beginning in person at 9:30 a.m.

Another amenity available to center members is the grab and go lunch, which serves approximately 125 seniors. Typically, these residents are either participating in other activities the center offers during lunch or simply stop in with confidence that each meal provided at the Smithtown Senior Citizen Center is carefully selected and consists of one third the current recommended dietary allowance for the 60 plus age group.

Additionally the Smithtown Senior Center is in its 25th year of serving Home Delivered Meals, also referred to as Meals on Wheels. This program currently serves approximately 60 to 70 qualifying senior citizens, some disabled, frail or have little to no support. There are 65 devoted volunteers who deliver meals to these residents person to person, which in addition to serving meals, lends as a comforting and consistent friendly face on a daily basis.

Additional Information About the Nutrition Program: Persons with self-declared incomes at or above 185% of the federal poverty level are encouraged to make a contribution equal to the actual cost of the meal. A suggested meal contribution of $2.25 is recommended. Any contributions made are confidential. Funding for this program is provided by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, the New York State Office for the Aging, Suffolk County Office for the Aging, and the Town of Smithtown. The monthly lunch menu can be found in print at the Senior Center or on the town website at

How To Join the Smithtown Senior Center: Smithtown residents, ages 60 years and older can join (no fee is required) by filling out a brief application on-site, along with proof of residency such as a driver’s license. A membership card and welcome packet will be provided, along with a tour of the facility by a Senior Center Club Leader. The welcome packet includes a current calendar of activities, classes, and events, as well as brochures for services and amenities available exclusively for members.

The Eugene Cannataro Senior Citizens Center offers a wide array of activities, clubs and programming geared towards improving quality of life for residents, ages 60 years or older. Every day, the center offers a full schedule of arts, fitness, and wellness programming. Members can choose to join a variety of clubs, from gardening, quilting and book clubs to one of seven social clubs, featuring Casino & Theater outings, luncheons, parties, community advocacy and volunteer opportunities. In addition to a wealth of entertaining programming, the Smithtown Senior Citizens Department offers a variety of at home maintenance and repairs services.

The Senior Center is open Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (July & August Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) Lunch is served daily. Transportation is also available for members. For questions or additional information, please call  (631) 360-7616 or for Transportation: (631) 265-8811.

Eugene Cannataro Senior Center is located at 420 Middle Country Road, Smithtown, NY 11787

Senior Assisted Living Community Recognized for Dedication to Long Island Seniors  by KP Chamber of Commerce

Whisper Woods of Smithtown, a Benchmark assisted living and Mind & Memory Care community, announced on March 11 they’ve received Kings Park Chamber of Commerce’s annual Humanitarian of the Year award. The award was given to the assisted living with memory care community for their ardent support of local seniors and their families.

On March 7, Desiree Krajnyak-Baker, executive director of Whisper Woods, accepted the award at the Chamber’s annual Persons of the Year Award Dinner & Dance held at Stonebridge Golf Links in Smithtown.

“For six years, we’ve worked hard to be a valued resource for all Suffolk County seniors and families,” said Krajnyak-Baker. “For our team, it’s about continuing to empower our residents as they age while nurturing their passions, connections and their quality of life. We are incredibly grateful to have our dedication recognized by the Chamber.”

“Whisper Woods is a valued and very visible member of our community. Even in challenging situations, the caring and commitment of the staff is incredibly evident in each and every interaction. I can’t think of an organization in our community who is more deserving of this award,” Diane Motherway, executive director, Kings Park Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, Whisper Woods was selected one of the country’s best by U.S. News & World Report with a 2023-2024 Best Assisted Living excellence award. They were the only senior living community in the greater Smithtown area to have earned this prestigious award.

Tom Cassidy with his late father, Hugh 'Joe' Cassidy. Photo by Jonathan Spier

By Thomas M. Cassidy

Thomas M. Cassidy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will cost many people their jobs. But some occupations desperately needed by a rapidly aging population cannot be replaced by computers or machines. For example, nurse assistants in hospitals and nursing homes.

Research conducted by Goldman Sachs estimates that 25% of current work tasks could be automated by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Unlike prior technological advances that replaced workers in labor intensive occupations, this time “it’s the higher-paying jobs where a college education and analytical skills can be a plus that have a high level of exposure to AI,” according to The Pew Research Center.

During my twenty-year career as an investigator for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, I conducted many investigations of potential patient abuse in nursing homes and other health facilities. I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of nursing assistants. Most were dedicated, knowledgeable and compassionate, but a few were not. Nursing aides dress, bathe, toilet and ambulate patients among many other services. Sometimes they also interact with families, which can be a difficult task. Let me explain:

I was assigned to investigate a possible case of patient abuse at a nursing home. An elderly woman with a doctor’s order for a two-person transfer was helped from her bed for a bathroom trip by only one nurse aide. The elderly woman fell and fractured her hip. The nursing assistant was immediately suspended pending an investigation. My assignment was to investigate this incident as a possible crime. Here’s what happened:

The nursing home patient had a visit from her daughter. Mom told her daughter to help her get out of bed and walk her to the bathroom. The daughter obeyed and helped mom get out of bed. The daughter tried to hold her up, but mom was weak and started to slip. The daughter screamed for help. A nursing assistant rushed to help the falling patient, but it was too late. Mom fell and fractured her hip. There was no crime. The nursing assistant returned to work the next day.

Fast forward twenty years. My father, a World War II combat veteran and a decorated NYPD Detective Commander, fractured his hip at age 80. I visited him at the Long Island State Veterans Nursing Home in Stony Brook. He was alone in his room. He says, “Tom, help me get to the bathroom.” I say, “Dad, let me get an aide to help you.” He says, “YOUR MY SON, just do this for me. I don’t want anyone else to help.” I told him about the elderly woman who fractured her hip when her daughter tried to help her. He said, okay, go get someone to help. If not for my experience as an investigator, I might have tried to help my father. I was taught “To Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother.” But instead, two aides moved my dad safely to the bathroom and back into his bed. Nine months later he walked out of the nursing home to live at home with my mother. 

Not every resident of a nursing home is elderly, but most are. In the United States today, one in every six Americans is age 65 or older. That number will increase dramatically in the next six years to 20% of the population or 70 million older Americans. Incredibly, nursing homes are closing, instead of opening. 

The American Health Care Association reports that since 2020 almost 600 nursing homes have closed, and more than half of nursing homes limit new admissions due to staffing shortages. As a result, there is a shortfall of hospital beds nationwide because displaced nursing home patients remain in hospital beds until they can be safely transferred home or to a care facility.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association reports that one out of every seven medical-surgical beds are unavailable due to patients remaining in the hospital when they no longer need hospital care. Keep in mind that hospitals are required by federal law to provide emergency care, stabilize patients, and discharge patients to a safe environment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nursing assistants have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses because they frequently move patients and perform other physically demanding tasks. For these, and many other tasks, nurse assistants are paid a median wage of less than $18 per hour; not even close to a salary that is in line with the responsibilities of their job. Small wonder that a survey by the American Health Care Association found that one of the biggest obstacles for hiring new staff in nursing homes is a lack of interested candidates.

Reversing the hemorrhage of nursing home closures requires leaders with Natural Intelligence (NI). It benefits all generations of Americans when hospitals fulfill their mission for acute care and not operate as quasi-nursing homes. After all, languishing in a crowded emergency room “Can Be Hazardous To Your Health!”

Thomas M. Cassidy is the creator of the TV series, Manhattan South, which is in development. (

From left, Jefferson’s Ferry’s President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Caulfield, Director of Admissions Dawn Flowers-Leib, Director of Housekeeping Patti Gallagher, Culinary Manager Heidi Vargas, Assistant Director of Nursing Kathy Koutouvidis, Director of Nursing Richelle Rugolo, and Vice President of Health Services Anthony Comerford. Photo courtesy of Jefferson's Ferry

Resident survey scores Jefferson’s Ferry in top 15% nationwide in skilled nursing care

For the sixth year running, the Vincent Bove Health Center at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket has received the Pinnacle Quality Insight Customer Experience Award for outstanding resident satisfaction and overall achievement in skilled nursing care. 

The Pinnacle Award process examines “Best in Class” service in skilled nursing over a 12-month period of study by surveying residents and their families about the quality of 14 target areas: Nursing care, activities, dining services/food quality, cleanliness, laundry services, therapy services, response to problems, dignity and respect, individual needs, would they recommend to others, the overall customer experience and satisfaction by residents or family members. The survey placed the health center in the top 15% of skilled nursing facilities nationwide. 

“For more than 20 years, Jefferson’s Ferry, Long Island’s first Life Plan Retirement Community, has set a high bar for extraordinary care,” said Jefferson’s Ferry President and CEO Bob Caulfield. “We strive every day to provide the highest quality care experience in a community setting that respects individuality and promotes dignity, privacy, and independence for every resident. The Pinnacle Award is a direct reflection of our families’ recognition of the outstanding work that our staff performs on a daily basis and a vote of confidence that all of us take very seriously.” 

The survey sampling of Vincent Bove Health Center residents and their families takes place over the course of a year with monthly telephone interviews that ask the participants open-ended questions to rate their experiences in the specific categories. Jefferson’s Ferry staff receive that feedback each month to gain a better understanding of emerging resident needs and make improvements when necessary. 

“The Pinnacle Award is especially meaningful to our caregivers and other staff, as the results come directly from the people they help on a daily basis,” explained Anthony Comerford, Vice President of Health Service at Jefferson’s Ferry. 

“It is important to know that we are consistently hitting the mark, meeting or exceeding the best standards or practices within our industry. Our goal is always to provide residents with the peace of mind to live their best life here. The staff and residents form close relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and quality care,” he said.

Setauket Elementary School. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

Some area seniors and persons with disabilities will qualify for a 50% cut to the school portion of their property taxes next year, after the Three Village Board of Education voted during their Feb. 7 meeting to raise the maximum income levels on a tax exemption aimed at easing the financial burden on vulnerable groups.

The move comes after nearly a year of advocacy by area senior Rochelle Pollack, who approached the podium with her walker at several board meetings since March 2023 in order to ask the board to make the change. She said seniors have elevated medical and prescription costs — alongside the high inflation rates impacting everyone. “House prices have skyrocketed,” she said at an April 2023 meeting. “It’s great if you’re selling, but it’s not if you’re staying, as school taxes have also skyrocketed.”

Pollack pointed out that someone making $40,000 but paying $14,000 in property taxes is left with $26,000 to live on. “In this day of high inflation, gas, food, heat, medical procedures and prescriptions, I dare any of you to live on $26,000,” she told the board. “How can seniors?”

According to Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Carlson, it’s unclear how much the savings for these groups will impact all the other homeowners in the area.

“What makes it tricky for the board is there’s no way to know how many people will now get this exemption,” Carlson explained, adding that changing the income levels opens up the exemption to a whole new group of people. “How many? No idea. We have no idea what income levels are, so it’s hard to say how much it will cost everyone else.”

During previous board meeting discussions of the exemption, Carlson compared it to splitting a restaurant bill. If two people in a group of 10 want to pay less because they only had water and salad, the other eight diners must pay more — the cost of the bill doesn’t change. “For one person to pay a little less, it means everyone else pays a little more.”

New York State raised the maximum allowable income levels in 2022 to $50,000 for those aged 65 and over, but the board opted to meet that increase halfway in light of uncertainty over how many seniors will take advantage of the tax credit, and what the real impact will be on all other homeowners. 

The sliding scale approved by the board will mean people over 65, or those with disabilities, who make up to $39,500 can qualify for the maximum 50% benefit. At the lowest end of the exemption, those making $47,000 to $47,900 can get a 5% tax break. Residents would need to apply for the exemption to the town assessor by March 1. 

Carlson explained that the state used to raise maximums for this income-based exemption incrementally each year, but until last year hadn’t made an increase since 2009, hence the substantial jump. Previously, residents needed to make $29,000 or less to qualify for the 50% discount. 

Trustee David McKinnon vocally supported increasing the income levels for the exemption, as he had during previous board discussions, as a moral issue of fairness. He called property taxes regressive by nature since they tend to disproportionately burden people with lower incomes — the less a person earns, the higher percentage of their income they end up paying, on average. McKinnon also praised Pollack for her advocacy in raising the issue to the board.

“She’s been an incredibly effective advocate for seniors here,” he said. “I knew nothing about this particular issue, and she came in at considerable cost to herself.”

The board was unanimous in approving the increase, and left open the possibility of bringing the district in line with state maximums next year, depending on the impact this change has on the rest of the community.

Holocaust survivors and residents living at Gurwin Jewish ~ Fay J. Lindner Residences assisted living community in Commack paid homage to  the victims of the Holocaust with a candle lighting vigil on Friday, January 26 in advance of Saturday’s commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Today’s ceremony honors the 79th  anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau,” said Dina McDougald, Assistant Administrator at Gurwin Jewish ~ Fay J. Lindner Residences. “Over the years we have been honored to care for many Holocaust survivors and are privileged to currently have 13 such residents in our care. As time passes, the numbers of those who can recount their experiences are dwindling. Each year we share their stories as a reminder of the effects of indifference to hatred, in the hope that these atrocities never happen again.”

Among the survivors living at Gurwin is Polish-born Cilia Borenstein. At 97 years old, Cilia vividly recalls her encampment at Auschwitz and the brutality of the Nazis.  The only member of her family to survive, Cilia holds their memories in her heart, telling their story so that the world will never forget. 

Despite the horrors perpetrated against her, Cilia chooses to see the beauty in life and people and is thankful for the gifts she was given. Her faith buoyed her spirits throughout her days at Auschwitz, “God came to me in the worst times and helped me to survive,” she said.

The memorial ceremony was led by Gurwin Assisted Living’s staff and chaplain Rabbi Israel Rimler, who called upon residents to each light a candle in remembrance of the friends and family who died at the hands of the Nazis.

METRO photo

By Elissa Gargone

Elissa Gargone

One of the great pleasures of life is spending time with a beloved family member or friend. But what happens to that quality time when that special person develops dementia? While its inescapable that a certain level of conversation will be lost, by reorienting your expectations it’s still possible for both of you to have a meaningful visit.  

The first step is to adjust to your loved one’s experience and enter their world. Focus not on what they have lost, but what still remains — their personality, their sense of humor, appreciation of their surroundings, or a connection to music. Start your visit with a smile, eye contact and a simple touch — a pat on the shoulder or back, a squeeze of their hand. These simple gestures help bring focus and connection to the interaction. Bringing something tangible with you that can act as an icebreaker — books, toys, photos or a tasty treat — are often helpful. 

Conversations may become less about ideas and storytelling and more about sharing feelings and emotions. If necessary, redirect challenging conversations in gentle, positive and creative ways, commenting on objects in the room, or outside the window. 

Asking your companion for their advice or opinion can make them feel valued and competent. Intellect is often perfectly intact, even if memory is fading. And please remember, you don’t need to correct your loved one’s recollections or assumptions. Empathize and spare their feelings.  

Jefferson’s Ferry’s memory support neighborhood has been designed to help residents and their loved ones enjoy a range of activities and opportunities for connection in a secure environment. While you may not have all of these options available to you, you can adapt some of these ideas to help you  to connect with your special person.  

The memory support neighborhood is set up to allow residents to safely meander through the hallways and visit “lifestyle stations.” These lifestyle stations replicate environments familiar to our residents that provide comfort and a sense of belonging.  Examples of lifestyle stations include a workbench with tools, a desk with computer station and phone, a nursery with baby doll, a sports room with pennants and hats, or a simple kitchen set up for coffee and conversation.

Our common rooms and visiting spaces include plenty of color, art, and textiles on the walls to stimulate the senses. We also have secure outdoor garden spaces.  

And then there’s music. Music is a pathway that can trigger a flood of long term memories and emotions. A body of evidence suggests that music prompts the secretion of dopamine, which spurs the brain to produce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Bringing a playlist of greatest hits enjoyed over a person’s lifetime along with a willingness to sing along or dance is a great way to enhance a visit. Playing familiar and well-loved music can also help to settle someone in an anxious or agitated state.

Despite a variety of tools and techniques, there are times when a visit doesn’t go smoothly for reasons beyond your control. Don’t judge yourself too harshly when this happens. 

Few of us are prepared for the challenges that arise when trying to connect to a loved one with dementia. Unless you’re a professional, it’s not as if you’ve been to school to study this. The most you can do is accept the challenges that come with someone in need of memory support and do your best. There will be good times and the not so good times, but you may be surprised at how fulfilling your visits can be. 

Elissa Gargone is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Jefferson’s Ferry Lifecare Retirement Community in South Setauket.

This article originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times senior supplement on 01/25/24.

METRO photo

By Hon. Gail Prudenti

Hon. Gail Prudenti

Before this decade is over, about a quarter of New York State’s population will be over the age of 60. Meanwhile, the 85-and-up populace is the fastest growing demographic subset in the state. This is a population that is inherently susceptible to abuse and exploitation, and the type of people who would take advantage of these vulnerable citizens know it.

A common con is the “grandma, it’s me” scam: A hysterical young person calls, pretending to be a grandchild and claiming to be in trouble for driving under the influence of cannabis and begging them not to tell the parents. The “grandchild,” whose voice is a little hard to make out because of the fake crying, puts a fake police officer on the phone, who instructs the victim to quickly wire over several thousand dollars for bail. 

I am aware of an elderly couple — well-educated, intelligent people in their mid-80s — who fell for it, thinking their beloved grandson needed their help. They’re out $5,000.

Although as a group those over 65 are much less likely to become crime victims than younger people, the elderly are increasingly victimized by various forms of abuse — physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment and, most commonly, financial exploitation. Solid statistics, though, are hard to come by since we only know what has been reported and, in many jurisdictions, mandatory reporting laws are either weak or inconsistent.

The federal government’s estimates range from 500,000 to two million incidents of elder abuse annually. In New York, the Office for the Aging cites the incidence of elder abuse at about 300,000 per year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contends one in 10 Americans aged 60 and above have experienced some form of elder abuse in the last year alone.

A study by the New York State Bar Association, Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, showed that 14 percent of all older adults in New York State experienced some form of elder abuse since turning 60. What’s more, the Bar Association report concluded that for every incident documented by state agencies, 24 went unreported. Tragically, many elderly victims won’t report because they are embarrassed and that includes the couple I mentioned earlier who fell the “grandma it’s me” scam), or because the abuser is their caretaker—the only person nearby that they can “rely” on.

Researchers and experts can’t seem to agree on what “elder” means — over 60? over 65? or is it a matter of mental capacity rather than an arbitrary age? — let along what all constitutes “elder abuse.” What we do know is that the many, many shapes of elder abuse implicate all sorts of laws, criminal and civil.

Our criminal courts increasingly deal with physical assaults, fraud and other crimes perpetrated against an older population.

Our civil courts deal with such thorny issues as competency: Does the elderly person have the capacity to sign a contract, and if not is the contract enforceable?; does the elderly person have the capacity to consent to or refuse medical treatment?; does the elderly person have the capacity to intelligently change his or her will?; does the elderly person have the capacity to consent to marriage—and what standing has the relative convinced that the suitor is trying to work his way into grandma’s estate rather than her heart? These are thorny legal questions, and oftentimes there is no clear answer.

I think we all need to be on the alert for the signs of possible elder abuse. Are there unexplained bumps and bruises, and does the older person become guarded when you inquire? Does the individual suddenly seem withdrawn or scared? Has their personal hygiene declined noticeably? Is the individual transferring assets or writing checks for cash? Is their cellphone off more than it used to be, or are you getting odd responses to texts that may indicate someone else is “managing” their communications? 

The tricky thing is, all of the above could be evidence of elder abuse. Or not.

A bill pending for years in the New York State Legislature would require the state Office for the Aging to develop elder abuse training and offer that training to senior service centers and contractors. However, experts say that elder abuse most commonly occurs in the home, which puts the onus on family, friends and neighbors to know the signs and maintain a watchful eye.

If you witness abuse, call 911. If you suspect someone is a victim of elder abuse, call the NYS Adult Protective Services Helpline at 1-844-697-3505. As with homeland security, if you see something, say something.

Hon. Gail Prudenti is the Former Chief Administrative Judge State of New York and a Partner at Burner Prudenti Law, P.C. focusing her practice on Trusts & Estates. Burner Prudenti Law, P.C. serves clients from New York City to the east end of Long Island with offices located in East Setauket, Westhampton Beach, Manhattan and East Hampton.

This article originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times senior supplement on 01/25/24.