Elder Abuse Prevention through Preparation
Did you know June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month? As the country reopens and you get to see friends and relatives in person again, you may notice changes in their well-being or finances. In some cases, these changes can indicate elder abuse.
Abuse isn’t always physical—it can be emotional, sexual, or financial, as well as passive neglect, willful deprivation, and confinement.
Recently, my grandpa got a call from my brother—he needed help. He went out drinking with some friends in New York the night before and, sadly, lost his credit card. He said not to worry, his voice only sounded “a little different” because he was sick and, if Grandpa would just give him his credit card, everything would be alright. Thankfully, Grandpa knew my brother doesn’t have a propensity for wild nights on the East Coast. Unfortunately, some don’t escape potential abusers so easily.
A study by the National Council on Aging estimates the annual loss by victims of financial abuse to be at least $36.5 billion. According to the Department of Justice at least 10% of adults over 65 will experience elder abuse in a given year.
Know what to look for…
Knowing the signs of abuse can save you or someone you love. Some of the physical signs of include unusual weight loss, missing daily living aids (glasses, hearing aids, etc.), unexplained injuries, unsanitary living conditions, poor hygiene, and unattended medical needs.
Increased anxiety/fear, isolation from friends and/or family, unusual changes in behavior, and withdrawal from normal activities are a few of the emotional indicia of abuse.
When financial abuse happens, there may be sudden changes in spending patterns or estate plans. For example, an elder may suddenly remove family members as beneficiaries and replace them with a new “friend” or caregiver. Other signs can include fraudulent signatures on financial documents and unpaid bills.
The more you know…
Report elder abuse to your local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. In Ventura County, the hotline is (805) 654-3200. Anyone who has full or part-time custody or care of an elder or dependent adult is a mandated reporter. This means they are required to immediately report suspected abuse and neglect. You can make a report to APS, even if you’re not a mandated reporter.
Some cases of elder abuse require immediate law enforcement involvement. Elder abuse restraining orders require a much lower standard of proof and, in extreme cases, protective orders can be issued immediately by law enforcement officials.
If you suspect abuse is occurring in a nursing home or other long term care facility, contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman program. Ventura County’s LTCO can be reached at (805) 656-1986.
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) gives a great overview of the issues of elder abuse, including information about their Home Equity Protection Program here: http://canhr.org/abuse/index.html.
This month, take some time to learn the signs of abuse and who to contact if you see or experience them. Prevent exploitation through preparation by getting a comprehensive estate plan in place today. For more information, contact our office at (805) 201-2552.
DISCLAIMER: The content contained herein is for general informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal or other professional advice. We do not accept any responsibility for any loss that may arise from reliance on this information. No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained in this article without seeking advice of counsel.