Miss D has changed my life in so many ways. I remember volunteering for Free Arts NYC over ten years ago. I was creating art with at-risk children and thought I could make a difference in their lives, but a funny thing happens – they change your life. They give back much more to you. It’s a very satisfying experience. The same is true for Miss D. Not only does she give me truths to live by, she has opened up a calling for me to become an advocate for the elderly.
I have just completed a published graphic for the NYC Elder Abuse Center for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day recognized on June 15, 2014. With an idea of a butterfly isolated inside a jar, I found the perfect photo from Natalia Shaidenko. She so graciously donated her photo for the public awareness of elder abuse. The NYC Elder Abuse Center group embraced this visual with a powerful call to action message.
NYC Elder Abuse Center commemorates WEAAD
I was asked to say a few words today at Miss D’s secured location for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The theme was being a Good Neighbor.
My experience with elder abuse started out simply by noticing my longtime neighbor Miss D in neglect. My husband and I have helped other neighbors before, but this was different. My gut told me something was wrong. How could a mother and grandmother with family living in this city be neglected and all alone?
I wasn’t quite sure what to do and I certainly did not feel comfortable contacting her family after what I saw. I started off by calling our local council office and they helped me navigate a referral to Adult Protective Services. With the city services getting involved, it was discovered Miss D was about to be evicted by our landlord and her son had been financially exploiting her for some time.
With this news, I became quite protective of my neighbor. She was vulnerable with dementia – she couldn’t remember she was abused and she didn’t understand what was happening to her. Miss D needed an advocate through this process. I followed her this past year as she was safely relocated to her secured location, testified at her court hearing and patiently waited for the appointment of the guardian group for Miss D. Many good professional people fought for Miss D’s rights. I am so grateful to them and especially to the secured location staff for keeping Miss D safe and for taking such good care of her.
As neighbors – we may be first-responders to Elder Abuse. I often think about what would have happened if I had looked the other way. Miss D would be homeless on the street and she’d be alone. Now, Miss D may be returning to her apartment this summer with the home care services she needs.
I will continue to be an advocate for Miss D. Our relationship began as neighbors, turned into a friendship and now we are family. I will also continue to fight for the prevention of elder abuse.
I would love to tell you all where Miss D is located, but I have to keep this private for her own safety. The secured location where Miss D has been for nearly a year is the best model I’ve ever seen for the caring of our elderly whether they are abused or not. Fortunately, this model of nursing home and elder abuse shelter is now being replicated across the country.
I was honored to receive The Good Neighbor Award today!