What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of sex, social status or ethnic background. It wears many faces and, alarmingly, typically occurs at the hands of the people who are most trusted by the victims – like their spouses, children, grandchildren, caregivers or financial or other advisors.
California’s laws set forth several specific types of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Financial abuse
But nearly any behavior leading to harm, pain or mental suffering of a vulnerable adult may qualify as elder abuse – regardless of whether those specific results actually were intended.
What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?
The signs of elder abuse may be very subtle, particularly when the abuse is something other than physical. A few things to look for are:
- Changes in the physical appearance, grooming or general behavior of the elder;
- Unusual banking activity; or
- Sudden changes in estate planning, or transfers of assets, deeds or trusts.
Other signs of elder abuse might be more apparent when observing relationships between elders and their caregivers:
- Does the caregiver seem to express more concern about the elder’s finances than about his or her physical and/or mental health?
- Has the caregiver isolated the elder, or does the caregiver prevent the elder from interacting with friends or family members unless the caregiver is present?
Any of these warning signs – alone or combined – may suggest the elder has fallen victim to neglect, abuse or financial exploitation.
How can you help?
Unfortunately, because such a high percentage of abusers tend to be the elder’s family members, caregivers or advisors, more often than not the persons who we would expect to be solving the problems turn out to be the ones responsible for causing the problems. As a result, hundreds of thousands of elder abuse cases go unreported or ignored every year.
If you suspect someone is a victim of elder abuse, please try to intervene. First‚ take steps to get more involved in his or her care. Talk to the caregiver or advisor, assess the situation, and do your best to determine the nature and extent of the problem. If the caregiver or advisor is standing in your way, or if you feel the problem is beyond your control, consider seeking assistance from the state Ombudsman‚ other government agencies‚ or a law firm like ours that focuses on elder or fiduciary abuse.
Written by Suzanne M. Rehmani, Esq., Founder of Rehmani & Associates – one of California’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys. Attorney Rehmani has more than twenty years of experience practicing law including litigating cases and has also handled numerous cases at the appellate level. She has an LLM in Taxation and is a licensed CA real estate broker and notary. She has extensive experience in numerous areas of transactional business and corporate law as well as basic and complex estate planning, including wills, trusts, probate, trust and estate administration matters, life insurance trusts, family limited partnerships, elder law, guardianships and conservatorships. Attorney Rehmani is a Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, and she and her firm are Featured in ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.