Elder abuse is a serious crime. The perpetrator can be civilly as well as criminally liable for the damages he or she causes. A Phoenix elder abuse attorney can help you understand your legal options and provide information about your next steps.
If you believe that your loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation, you may be able to file a claim for damages. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Begam Marks & Traulsen in Phoenix today to schedule your free case review.
How do I Report Elder Abuse in Arizona?
Our Phoenix elder abuse attorneys know elder abuse may have several warning signs depending on the nature of the mistreatment. It is best to report elder abuse if you have any suspicion, erring on the side of caution. The presence of certain red flags may merit an immediate report to Adult Protective Services.
- Signs of physical abuse. Signs can include bruises, broken bones, or other unexplained injuries
- Indications of neglect. Signs of neglect often include pressure sores or ulcers, unkempt appearance, or sudden or dramatic weight loss
- Warnings of emotional abuse. Warnings may include changes in behavior, sudden social isolation, bouts of depression or anxiety, or the presence of false dementia
- Hints of financial abuse. Hints may include changes in spending behavior or amendments to wills or deeds
Making the Report
Making a report of elder abuse is simple and only takes a few minutes. Contact your local Adult Protective Services or call the local police department for help. The NCEA also details ways loved ones can help an elder in a potentially dangerous situation.
- Remove the elder from the dangerous situation immediately. If you suspect that a loved one is in immediate or life-threatening danger, call 911.
- If you suspect that a loved one is receiving inadequate care in a nursing home, contact the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman office in your area. The Long-Term Care Ombudsmen advocate on behalf of nursing home residents and investigate complaints about long-term facilities. An advocate can help investigate the situation and help provide further guidance about filing a complaint. You may also choose to hire an experienced Phoenix nursing home abuse lawyer to help recover compensation for your loved one.
- Advocate for your elder as much as possible. Some may equate rash decision making, especially with regard to finances, as a progression of dementia and not actual exploitation. However, sudden changes in spending habits can be indicative of financial abuse. Take a loved one to a geriatric specialist or neurologist to rule out medical causes of erratic behavior.
What is Financial Elder Abuse?
Financial exploitation is one of the most common ways that abusers take advantage of the older population. Often, abusers leverage mental conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s to mask the abuse. Unfortunately, senior citizens rely on their caregivers to help them manage their finances, which puts them in a vulnerable position. Instead of using an elder’s accumulated life savings to pay bills, an abuser may use the money to benefit himself or herself.
The longer financial abuse occurs, the more devastating the effect on the entire family. Financial exploitation of an elder can have serious emotional and practical side effects. An elder may run out of resources to continue long-term care, or an abuser may deplete an entire estate leaving nothing for the intended heirs. Understanding the implications and warning signs of financial abuse can help family members or loved ones intervene as soon as possible.
Examples of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse of an elder can be difficult to detect. Unfortunately, many elders in long-term or assisted care facilities have comorbidities such as dementia. Erratic behavior can be a natural consequence of cognitive conditions, so some loved ones may assume that excessive spending is a side effect of the health condition. Abusers also use this to their advantage, exploiting the trust of the individual and his or her family to achieve their own ends. In some cases, financial abuse can go unnoticed for years. Knowing some common scenarios in which people may abuse elders financially can help loved ones keep a lookout.
- Financial institutions can take advantage of elders by charging unnecessary fees.
- Long term care facilities may charge extra expenses to an elder’s account.
- Caregivers may convince an elder to amend wills or deeds.
- Portfolio or financial managers may use their position of expertise to convince elders to make decisions that do not benefit them.
- Contractors may convince seniors to complete home improvements, collect a payment, and never complete the work.
- Home care aides may transfer money from an elder into their own accounts instead of using the funds as intended.
Warning Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse has many causes and the warning signs may differ by type. Some forms of financial abuse can be as simple as overcharging for services, or as complex as forging documents or amending estate plans. Loved ones should be aware of the common signs of elder abuse.
- Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
- Overdue or unpaid bills
- Missing items from the household
- Odd charges on nursing home accounts
- Missing checks
- Sudden changes in wills
- Purchases that an elder does not understand or cannot explain
The presence of any of the warning signs merits a call to the local police department or report to an Adult Protective Services agency.
Elder Abuse Statistics
Elder abuse is an unfortunately common occurrence. The abuse of an elder may involve matters of physical, emotions, or sexual harm, as well as exploitation and abandonment. An elder can suffer abuse at the hands of a family member, spouse, or staff at a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that 10% of Americans over the age of 60 have endured some kind of abuse, and 5 million adults in the same age group suffer the effects of elder abuse each year. In one study, authors estimate that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse get reported to the authorities, so the problem may be far more widespread than represented in the literature. With this in mind, Comparitech author Paul Biscpaul set out to uncover the true scale of the issue by analyzing and extrapolating government reports and registries by state.
Who is Most at Risk for Elder Abuse?
Both male and female elders are vulnerable to abuse. Home care aides commit around 15% of elder abuse, and friends and neighbors are responsible for an additional 16%.
The NCEA reports that social isolation and a condition that affects cognition, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, are two factors that put elders at high risk for abuse. Some recent studies show that around half of elders who have dementia also endured neglect or abuse.
Elder abuse has detrimental effects that can seriously affect the victim’s well-being for years to come. A recent study found that elders who suffered abuse had a 300% higher risk of dying compared to those who did not experience any mistreatment. Elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans up to $36.5 billion annually. It is likely that the economic and health impacts of elder abuse are actually higher, as many cases go unreported.
Elder abuse is against the law. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors can use several tactics to bring those who abuse this vulnerable population to justice. Knowing how to spot signs of elder abuse and report it to proper authorities can help stop the vicious cycle.
Contact an Elder Abuse Lawyer in Phoenix Today
Our elder abuse lawyers are passionate about advocating for elderly rights. As a victim or the loved one of a victim, please contact us online or call (602) 254-6071 to speak to an elder abuse attorney at our law firm about your case. We offer free initial consultations in Phoenix and want to help you recover the compensation you deserve.