Martinson & Beason, PC attorneys Doug Martinson and Will Pylant recently secured a $249,395.51 judgment in an instance of elder exploitation. In the case, an elderly wartime veteran with dementia was exploited by a woman over forty-years his junior. The case has been referred to law enforcement for prosecution.
Unfortunately, elder abuse happens far more often than we like to think. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, one in ten elderly Americans have experienced abuse. Abuse can take many different forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, financial abuse, and deprivation of resources.
Financial Exploitation can include taking advantage of an elderly person’s senility or disability, fraudulently using a power of attorney for one’s own benefit, public works scams, charity scams, reverse mortgages, credit card fraud, loans, insurance fraud, and many others. It is estimated that only 1 in 25 cases of financial exploitation are reported.
For neglect and physical abuse, look for unusual behavior, sudden changes in behavior, withdrawal, lashing out, depression, isolation from friends and family, bedsores, bruising, poor hygiene, unexplained injuries, or other physical marks.
Signs of financial abuse include refusal to answer questions about finances, unexplained bank withdrawals, unsavory new “friends”, unforeseeable changes in wills and legal documents, unnecessary defensiveness, or stating it’s their money and they can give it away to whomever they please.
To stop ongoing abuse of an elderly person (or prevent it before starting), a spouse or relative may be able to obtain a guardianship or conservatorship over the elderly person through a commitment hearing. Upon a finding that the elderly loved one is incompetent or unable to manage his or her own affairs, the court may appoint a guardian to manage the physical health and wellbeing of the elder and a conservator to manage their financial affairs. Depending on state law, you may also be able to rescind contracts entered into by the elderly loved one if they are determined incompetent at the time they entered the contract.
In Alabama, if you suspect elder abuse, call Adult Protective Services toll free at 1-800-458-7214 and/or consult an attorney.