Abuse of the Elderly
Abuse of an Elderly Person
Unfortunately, we all hear stories about the elderly becoming targets of financial, physical or emotional abuse or neglect. According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, nearly 1 in every 10 elderly persons are subjected to some form of abuse. But that only consists of reported cases. This a growing problem among the elderly.
Why is this happening?
Elderly persons are often more susceptible to undue influence for a variety of reasons. Undue influence exists when (1) there is confidential relationship between you and another person; (2) you suffer weakness of mind in relation to the influential person; and (3) the person gains unfair advantage over you. For example, a person who takes control over an elderly person by isolating him or her from other family and friends may be exerting undue influence in an effort to acquire the elderly personâ€™s assets either before or after death.
What are the warning signs?
In self-neglect situations, the most common things are lack of basic hygiene, adequate food, clean and appropriate clothing or medical aids, such as glasses, teeth hearing aides and medication. Sometimes the telltale sign is simply a home cluttered, filthy, in disrepair, or having fire and safety hazards or that the home has inadequate facilities or working appliances. Other neglect type cases occur when a person with dementia is left unsupervised or a person confined to bed is left without care.
In cases of financial abuse or exploitation, if an elderly person begins giving excessively and uncharacteristically for simple care and companionship, it might be that the individual lacks amenities that he or she can afford. This may be symptomatic of the caregiver having control of the elder's money but failing to provide for their needs. Another example may be the elderly person has signed legal documents in favor of a new person or has even signed away their right to property to that person.
Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities and unexplained changes in alertness may be a sign of emotional or psychological abuse. This may also occur when the caregiver isolates the elderly refusing access to the home or even allowing a third party to speak to the elderly person. More alarming is when the caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, overly concerned about spending money, or seems uncaring about the needs of the elderly person.
Finally, there is physical or sexual abuse. This may exist when there are unexplained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores or burns. In the case of sexual abuse, this may arise when there are unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
How to deal with elder abuse?
The best remedy to prevent the abuse of the elderly is by carefully choosing trustworthy people to act as agents, successor trustees, or conservators when preparing estate planning documents. An experienced elder law attorney will guide you through the process.
If you believe that an elderly person is in danger, call the police immediately. If the elderly individual is being overly controlled by a family member or a stranger, call the local Adult Protective Services Agency in the county where the elderly person lives. Reports are anonymous and the agency will investigate the situation if the facts warrant interaction.
The worst case scenario may be that a guardianship needs to be filed to protect that person from continued abuse if they are incapable of helping themselves in the situation.