“Elder Abuse” is generally defined as an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship with an expectation of trust that causes a risk of harm to the elderly adult. The incidents of elder abuse are becoming more common and with our elderly living longer and their population growing, it is expected to continue to be a problem that escalates. According to the National Council on Aging, the elderly who are physically mistreated are 300% higher risk of death and financial elder abuse costs older Americans 2.9 billion dollars per year in lost assets. https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/ .
While Alabama has statutes that make certain acts of elder abuse a crime, often times there aren’t the proper resources to prosecute the abuser. And even if you have the proper means or person to bring a civil action against the alleged abuser, often times the assets are wasted and uncollectable. So, while it sounds silly, the best way to prevent elder abuse is not through punishment, but through – prevention.
Martinson and Beason has years of experience in assisting our clients in both preventing elder abuse, but also in attempting to collect stolen or lost assets. Here are some basic prevention strategies:
- Advanced Planning Tools: Advanced Directives and Powers of Attorney are great ways to ensure that you nominate that person or those people that you can trust to help manage your physical and financial well-being. With proper counsel and thought, you can ensure that someone you know, love, and trust is ensuring you are taken care of.
- Observation: Physical elder abuse and neglect is quite common. While this list is not exhaustive, and of course some of these indicators can also occur without fault on any person, it is important to pay attention to:
- Bruising (specifically if it looks like an object or can be found at wrist, upper arms, thighs)
- Poor personal hygiene
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Finances: Financial abuse is often times even more difficult to detect. Some common signs may include:
- Banking habit changes
- Unpaid bills
- New “friends”
- Abrupt changes in advance planning and estate planning documents
- Irregular ATM Charges and checks made payable to “cash”
- Unpaid bills and utilities
The above indicators are clearly just the tip of the iceberg, but it is important that if you have a loved one who is elderly and who you suspect may be the victim of abuse, that you have options. Those options include contacting the Department of Human Resources, contacting law enforcement, or contacting a lawyer to assist you and perhaps investigate.
If you find yourself needing help navigating these sorts of complex situations, call our experienced attorneys today to see how we can help you.