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Brouk and Bronson push for elder abuse protections in proposed bill


A bill in the state senate introduced on Friday aims to keep abusers from inheriting the estates of elders, and it stems from a local case.

NY State Senator Samra Brouk, who sponsored the bill, said her office was approached by a woman, Debra Kostiw, who said that her brother had allegedly abused their elderly mother towards the end of her life. 

“I have turned a horrific situation into helping others and I vow to keep up the momentum,” Kostiw said in a statement. “I lend my voice to those who are silenced and will fight for all seniors suffering from abuse.”

In New York state, when someone dies without a will, their estate is inherited by their next of kin, but as Brouk notes, more than half of elder abuse cases nationally involve family members. As such, the proposed bill would bar anyone convicted of elder abuse from that inheritance.

“It allows for basically taking any sort of potential incentive for this kind of abuse towards someone away, right?” Brouk said. “Because if you are convicted of this abuse, no matter what you will not be able to benefit from this person’s estate.”

Brouk’s bill mirrors a proposal in the state assembly that Assemblymember Harry Bronson introduced in May. It would also codify the definition of elder abuse to include financial exploitation, neglect, physical abuse and more.

“This is simple,” Anne Marie Cook, CEO of Lifespan said in a statement. “No person should be able to inherit funds after financially exploiting an older adult. Every day, older adults suffer abuse and exploitation.”

According to the NY State Office for the Aging, elder abuse is an “invisible problem” as one in 24 cases go unreported.

According to the National Institute on Aging, signs of elder abuse can look like:

  • appearing depressed, confused, or withdrawn 
  • isolated from friends and family 
  • unexplained bruises, burns, or scars 
  • appears dirty, underfed, dehydrated, over-or undermedicated, or not receiving needed care for medical problems 
  • bed sores or other preventable conditions 
  • recent changes in banking or spending patterns

The organization recommends if you suspect someone is being victimized by elder abuse, to talk with them privately, and contact a local adult protective services agency.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.