Elder Abuse Actions

Sad elderly female looking out window of nursing home.

Any physical and psychological abuse of an elderly person, theft of elderly person’s money or property, or the intentional or unintentional failure to provide care to an elderly person is elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Government estimates that 1.5 million elders suffer from abuse, while only 1 incident in 14 is reported. The average victim of abuse is a female, age 75 or older, with limited resources. Generally, the victim is widowed, frail and vulnerable because of mental or physical impairments, who resides with family. In cases of self-neglect, the average age of the elderly person is 77. Sometimes the victim resides in an institution. The victim may have fewer alternatives to remove herself from the abusive situation because of her financial condition, health or age. Often, the abuser is the victim’s middle-aged child who is the victim’s caregiver. The abuser may even be the victim’s spouse or grandchild. An individual without close family may be exploited by a “friend.” If the individual resides in an institution, the abuser is often an employee of the facility, although another resident of the facility can also be the abuser.

Broadly defined by the Federal government, there are three (3) basic categories of elder abuse: (A) domestic elder abuse; (B) institutional elder abuse; and (C) self-neglect or self-abuse.

A. Domestic elder abuse refers to any mistreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder (e.g., a spouse, a sibling, an adult child, a friend, or caregiver). The most prevalent form of abuse is by younger family members who are responsible for the care of their elderly relatives.

B. Institutional elder abuse refers to abuse that occurs in residential facilities for older persons (e.g., nursing homes, foster homes, group homes, etc.). Perpetrators of institutional abuse usually are persons who have a legal or contractual obligation to provide elder victims with care and protection (e.g., paid caregivers, staff, and professionals).

C. Self-neglect or self-abuse is an act, or failure to act, by the elderly person which is life-threatening or which can lead to serious injury. Examples include the refusal to eat or take medication, the refusal to visit the doctor as directed, and the refusal to bathe or follow other basic hygiene routines. Financial exploitation, a type of domestic elder abuse, is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s assets. Examples include but are not limited to cashing an elderly person’s checks without authorization / permission; forging an older person’s signature; misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions; coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any documents (e.g., contracts or will); and the improper use of a conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney).

When a client is a victim of abuse, there are certain steps that can be taken to stop further abuse, such as obtaining an injunction, a restraining order, or an order removing or evicting the abuser from the victim’s home, or by filing a complaint against a facility or employee, or removing the victim from the facility. In cases where the victim is incapacitated, it may be necessary to petition the court for the appointment of a guardian, or to file a protective proceeding. In addition, the victim should consider filing criminal charges against the perpetrator of the exploitation. When the client is a victim of domestic violence, it may be possible to obtain a temporary restraining order or domestic violence injunction, or to commence a separate maintenance or divorce proceeding, depending upon the victim’s wishes. The attorneys at Vanarelli & Li, LLC have extensive litigation experience representing the victims of abuse as well as defending against false claims of elder abuse.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Elder Abuse Actions, call us at 908-232-7400 or click here to contact us online.

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