Elder Abuse Has Many Faces


The American Association for Justice recently published an interesting article regarding elder abuse that may be of benefit to many persons with aging parents or other loved ones that may be victims of elder abuse. (See “The Faces of Elder Abuse”, October 2012 issue of Trial magazine).

The article identifies six different kinds of elder abuse: The first, physical abuse, need little explanation except to say that the article points out that administering psychotropic drugs (referred to as chemical restraints) may constitute a form of physical abuse, as well as physical restraints and battery.

Emotional abuse likewise needs little explanation except to say that mere isolation of an elder person from friends and family may constitute elder abuse, particularly when it is coupled with attempts to exert undue influence, as for example, in inducing the elder person to make changes to his or her will. A caregiver who seems reluctant to let you have a conversation with the elder person outside of the caregiver’s listening range is a red flag that should be investigated.

Financial exploitation of the elderly is a huge, common and growing problem. The elderly and those with some cognitive impairment are extremely vulnerable to financial abuses. Exploitation may run the gamut from fraudulent sweepstakes initiated by strangers to fraudulent or unsuitable investments (or outright theft) arranged by a trusted friend. Efforts financially exploit an elder person can be subtle. A person with even mild cognitive impairment can be easily conned by someone with the experience and intent to do so.

Neglect involving a failure to provide necessities of daily living also constitutes elder abuse. Examples may include deprivation of food and water, and failure to provide sanitary and healthy living conditions. Bedsores are one a red flag of neglect. A bed-ridden person needs to be repositioned frequently to avoid bedsores. The article points out that when assisted living facilities have these problems, it is usually the result of a management decision to cut costs resulting in understaffing. Neglect due to understaffing is the reason for most elder abuse lawsuits against nursing homes, according to the article.

Abandonment by caregiver who has undertaken to provide care is a form of elder abuse. Generally speaking, a person who would not otherwise have a legal duty to do something (such as provide elder care) acquires such a duty by undertaking to do so.

The article states that if you suspect elder abuse, the first step is to stop the abuse. Agencies like Adult Protective Services can be of assistance. Seeking the assistance of professionals can often aid in stopping the abuse. After the abuse has been stopped, you should consider whether legal action to recover damages is appropriate.

If you suspect elder investment abuse, you should consult with an attorney with experience representing investors. Similarly, if you suspect other forms of elder abuse, seek an attorney with experience in representing victims in that area. All potential cases have to be carefully investigated before an arbitration or lawsuit is filed. The sooner you get an attorney involved the better, since various statute of limitations and other time limitations may negatively affect the case.

Page Perry is an Atlanta-based law firm with over 170 years of collective experience maintaining integrity in the investment markets and protecting investor rights.