According to a new study in the American Geriatrics Society, Elder abuse is much more common than is recognized by society - particularly among adults with cognitive impairments such as dementia. Studies estimate one in ten adults is subject to elder abuse, with nearly one half of all adults with dementia falling prey to elder abuse. "Common, identifiable, fatal, and costly" was how lead study author Xin Qi Dong described all types of elder abuse in an email to Reuters.
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines seven types of elder abuse: Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Emotional or Psychological Abuse, Neglect, Abandonment, Financial or Material Exploitation, or Self Neglect. If we know or suspect an elder is being subjected to any one of these types of abuse, it our duty to do something about it. But what can we do?
Taking legal actions - such as obtaining a conservatorship may be the only available option, but there are certainly other steps that need be taken before pursuing legal action. As an Elder Law attorney in Walnut Creek, I always advise perspective clients to see if anything can be done to resolve the situation before seeking the services of a lawyer that specializes in Elder Abuse. Let's take a look at what tools you have in the fight against elder abuse.
Tools to fight against Elder Abuse
Keep a Journal
Write down your encounters with both the victim and the abuser, including details such as time, date, and location. Any supporting documentation of the meeting - especially what was said - can be useful. Consider taking a photo or recording a phone call.
Communicating with the Elder at risk is crucial if you suspect abuse is occurring. By communicating on a regular basis, you can ensure they do not feel alienated from you and will share details about their situation. Moreover, an elderly person who does not communicate with friends and family on a regular basis can become more and more isolated and particularly vulnerable to abuse.
New companies such as EverSafe have created programs that monitor and protect against fraud and identity theft. Once registered, the elder can give permission to trusted family and friends to view their online profile - which specifically tracks financial accounts and credit reports, and reports suspicious activity.
If you believe elder abuse is occurring, contact local authorities. Contra Costa County Adult Protective Services can be reached at: (925) 646-2854. Alameda County Adult Protective Services can be reached at: (510) 577-3500. Often you can report anonymously, and if the adult is deemed to have capacity, they can refuse the services provided. If financial exploitation or abuse is occurring, The U.S. Department of Justice recommends calling the local police and the FBI in addition to APS.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney
Consult with An Elder Law attorney who specializes in Elder abuse. I offer a free consultation in my office in Walnut Creek and have significant experience in elder abuse matters in Contra Costa County and Alameda County.
An elder law attorney may be able to freeze assets or take other legal action appropriate for your situation.
The Difficult Grey Area of Elder Abuse
The most difficult elder abuse situations are those in which the elder is not completely incapacitated, but has limited capacity. Capacity in this instance is defined as "the ability to comprehend both the nature and consequences of one's acts." Those who express concern about the occurrence of elder abuse within a family are often met with disbelief and doubt - and most often by the victim themselves. I have worked with many adult children in the SF East Bay who have a parent in this very situation. In almost every case, we have been able to significantly improve the situation of the parent, and safeguard them for the future.