Many people look forward to retirement as a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, as we get older, unfortunately, we also become more susceptible to elder abuse, a serious and growing problem, made even more serious by the challenges involved in identifying and reporting such abuse. Elderly individuals are often more vulnerable to various forms of abuse because they tend to have assets that they have accumulated through their lives and because they may also experience mental or physical limitations. The Elder Abuse Basics section contains helpful resources on the laws protecting the elderly from abuse, how to spot cases of abuse, and more.
In some cases, as when an elderly person has dementia, he or she may lack mental capacity, the ability to make sound judgments with assets, or the ability to seek help. Without the proper protection, seniors can find themselves transferring away their assets as a result of the undue influence of another or as the victims of physical or sexual abuse without the ability to report such abuse to authorities. Subtle forms of elder abuse, as when family members, caregivers, or "new friends" pressure seniors to alter their estate plan (typically a will, a trust, or a power of attorney) are often the hardest to detect.
This section provides important information to assist in addressing these various complex issues.
Identifying, Reporting, and Investigating Elder Abuse
In this section, you’ll learn about the different kinds of elder abuse including elder financial exploitation as well as elder self-neglect which doesn’t involve a third party perpetrator but is still considered a form of elder abuse. This section also provides information about how to detect signs of elder abuse (with helpful checklists) and where you can report any instances of elder abuse, including information about relevant protective agencies and elder abuse hotlines in your area.
Legal Remedies - Where You Live Matters
This section also addresses various criminal and civil laws and other pending legislation designed to protect against elder abuse. Where a victim of elder abuse lives can often determine what legal remedies are available, as most laws protecting against elder abuse exist at the state level, rather than at the federal level.
Although all states have general laws that would prohibit physical or sexual abuse or theft, many states have also enacted criminal and civil laws specifically protecting elderly victims. Some of these laws require professionals, such as doctors, to report any signs and suspicions of elder abuse as they are often best situated to detect abuse given their regular interactions with elderly patients. Some states even grant seniors the ability to file civil complaints to recover any damages caused by elder abuse, particularly when such abuse involves financial exploitation.
This section will provide a list of relevant laws and legislation in your state as well as the pertinent agencies that are specifically trained to investigate and prosecute elder abuse as well as provide resources and needed care for the victims of such abuse.
Given the wide range of laws addressing elder abuse and the multitude of agencies and resources available, this section will provide you with a basic understanding of elder abuse and assist you in seeking help.
This understanding should also help you understand which questions to ask an elder law attorney or another professional regarding the protections that are available to elder abuse victims in your area. There are also resources available if you want to create a living will, power of attorney, or living trust with DIY forms.