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What To Do If You Are Falsely Accused of Older Adult Abuse

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

No good deed goes unpunished, which can certainly apply to caregivers’ efforts to help older adults. Sometimes when we try to assist others, things go awry, or our efforts are misunderstood. Good people are accused of abuse — sometimes against their own loved ones.

It happens with people who look out for kids, older adults, dependent adults, and other vulnerable populations. It can happen in nursing homes, medical facilities, or in homes. Someone witnesses abuse, or suspected abuse, and law enforcement or adult protective services get involved.

If you find yourself reported for older adult abuse, what should you do? It's a difficult question because there are different types of abuse toward senior citizens and, as such, different contexts in which you might be accused.

Financial Abuse Basics

Say you are a trustee of an older adult's estate, and you are sued for alleged financial misdeeds. The claim is that you have abused your power as a trustee, perhaps by embezzling funds from the trust.

You may face civil charges if a family member or an interested party sues you, or maybe even criminal charges if they take the case to the state attorney.

Physical Abuse Basics

If you are entrusted with the physical care of an older adult, and they are injured, you might also find yourself accused. Criminal abuse charges are often enhanced when the alleged crime is against the aged, so the penalties can be severe. Civil suits for injury are also a possibility.

This is a difficult situation because older people are more susceptible to injury. You were likely dealing with a delicate person if you provide physical assistance. It could well be that you did nothing wrong and an accident happened. Perhaps you unknowingly put them in an endangerment situation. If this happens between family members in a home, it can be considered domestic violence. Take abuse accusations seriously and use a lawyer to help tell your side of the story.

Emotional Abuse

While sometimes harder to prove, abuse charges can include emotional abuse. This can include using fear, manipulation, or affecting an older adult’s mental health. It is a serious charge, just like any other type of abuse.

Clearing Your Name

The problem is how to clear your name. Whatever context, a person accused needs a defense attorney of some sort.

For criminal charges, you need a criminal defense attorney. For civil suits, you need a lawyer who knows the area of law involved and the issues. Financial suits involve much math and accounting paperwork, while injury suits involve medical records and the expertise of doctors. There are lawyers with expertise in older adult law as well.

The first step is to talk to an attorney, and that person can guide you to the right counselor. Attorneys are accustomed to referring clients to an appropriate colleague; it is considered a professional courtesy and an ethical obligation.

Rest assured that there are lawyers who can help you. Plenty of respectable people have been accused of things they did not do and survived with their reputations ultimately intact.

If you are accused of abuse, don't delay. Meet with an attorney for specific legal advice.

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