Elder Abuse and Exploitation

Mon, Jul 27, 2015

Elder Law

4095327896_958e53dd05_bOne of the most despicable societal crimes is elder abuse. It happens more than you want to think and its pervasiveness is scary to contemplate.

Elder abuse does not always mean physical abuse. Mental abuse is also prevalent—and often goes unreported even more than physical abuse because it is harder to prove. Elder exploitation is often seen as an offshoot of elder abuse. This is when an elderly person is taken advantage of financially, or exploited in some other way. The abuse and exploitation are often perpetrated by family members or unrelated caregivers.

An example of exploitation is when a family member is uses undue influence or scare tactics to make the elderly individual comply with their demands. Sometimes declining health and advancing age make it difficult for the elderly individual to recognize the abuse or they are unable to defend themselves against it.

Lack of access to outside help can make it easy for unscrupulous family members to take advantage of the very ones that once cared for them as a child. Another scenario is when the family is not close by or for various other reasons must have someone else act as caregiver. This can be in an institution or at home with a home healthcare worker. It’s very easy, and unfortunately common, for those looking for a financial victim to start with the elderly. They can use scare tactics to keep the individual quiet or they can be so subtle in their exploitation that the individual is not even aware. Or perhaps they have a sob story that makes the individual want to help them out, at the expense of their own financial help. Many elderly are more trusting of others because of the generation they grew up in.

One way to prevent elder abuse and exploitation is to thoroughly check out caregivers. This includes home health workers, aides, and nursing facilities. Be realistic about family members. Check out references prior to inviting caregivers into your family member’s life. Spend time with them prior to trusting them completely.

Have safeguards in place if you have concerns about elder abuse or exploitation. Have another trusted individual check in with both scheduled and unscheduled visits. Consider a “nanny cam” or other monitoring device. Consider getting power of attorney and other/or guardianship if applicable to the specific situation. Make sure that a caregiver has as little financial access as possible. A cell phone or other way for your family member to get in touch is also helpful. Be suspicious if you never have physical access or at least phone access to your family member. They can only be taking a nap or indisposed so often.

Consult professionals like attorneys, accountants, and doctors to find the most suitable process to prevent elder exploitation. If you suspect there is a problem, act quickly and thoroughly.

If the abuser/exploiter is a family member, it’s a little more complicated. It’s harder to gain access and perhaps more difficult to get the exploiter to give up control both legally and physically. It might also be a challenge to have your elderly family member “turn in” the abusing or exploiting family member because of family loyalty. One way to help regain control is to get paperwork in place that allows for group decisions (if applicable) or perhaps to have sole decision making done by a truly trusted party.

SmithLaw handles many legal aspects for the aging individual and their family. This includes creating paperwork and legal documents to help them before exploitation can start, in addition to helping loved ones protect them if it’s already happened. Don’t delay in protecting your elderly loved one if you are worried there is a problem with his or her care.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

Image: Some rights reserved by Elsie esq.

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