Elder Abuse—Know the Warning Signs

Jun 14, 2018

As I checked the news this morning, one particular story caught my eye—a “manager” and “caregiver” for Stan Lee (the famous Marvel comic book writer, editor, and publisher) was arrested for filing a false police report.  This arrest follows a welfare check for Mr. Lee after reports of elder abuse by the “caregiver/manager.”  The timing of the article addressing Mr. Lee’s situation could not be more appropriate—World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is tomorrow, June 15, 2018.

Many people have particular notions or assumptions about elder abuse, believing that such abuse is very rare.  However, elder abuse is much more prevalent than the public realizes.  Approximately 1 in 10 Americans age 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse according to the National Council on Aging.

Elder abuse can be both physical and verbal.  It can include theft of property or isolation of an elderly individual.  This abuse knows no boundaries and is not isolated to particular socioeconomic groups of our society.  Thus, in order to protect the elderly population, awareness of the warning signs is key.

Common warning signs of elder abuse include:

  1. Alienation of long-time friends, caregivers, and associates.
  2. Isolation of the elderly individual.
  3. Unexplained or numerous bumps, bruises, and abrasions.
  4. Signs of neglect such as an unclean home environment and clothing.
  5. Secretive behavior surrounding management of finances and legal matters (e.g. multiple visits to lawyers, changing of longstanding legal documents and wishes).
  6. Poor management of finances including bills that are not paid, payment for services is too high (e.g. to a caregiver).
  7. Change in behavior by the elderly individual, which may include showing signs of depression or fear.
  8. Reconnecting with estranged family members or friends coupled with other warning signs.
  9. The suspected abuser behaves as if he or she is the only person who cares for the elderly individual.
  10. The individual is cut off from neutral third parties, such as not regularly seeing a physician or nurse.

Elder abuse is more subtle than one would expect.  The abuser frequently does not see himself or herself as an abuser—the behavior is justified by some other excuse (e.g. I am such a great caregiver, of course the elderly individual wanted to transfer a large sum of money to me as a sign of appreciation).  These behaviors can start slowly and worsen over time.  In addition, the relationship between the abuser and the elderly individual can vary—paid caregiver, family member, neighbor, or friend.

If you suspect that an elderly individual is being abused, call the local Adult Protective Services in your county.  You may make an anonymous report and APS will investigate to see if protective services are needed.  You may also contact one of McGuire Wood & Bissette’s elder law attorneys for assistance protecting a loved one.

You can read more about Mr. Lee’s situation here: https://nyti.ms/2HMyQGT

McGuire Wood & Bissette will participate in the Elder Abuse Awareness Walk in Haywood County tomorrow, June 15, 2018.  To learn how to join us or for more information, click here: https://tinyurl.com/ycjznhk6

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