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Detecting Elder Abuse: Part 2

Detecting Elder Abuse: Part 2


Detecting elder abuseIn part 1, I covered the four types of elder abuse: financial, physical, mental/emotional, and neglect, and discussed how to recognize them. I also discussed some ways to prevent them.

Signs of Elder Abuse is also a good resource for indicators of elder abuse.

How to Investigate an Abuse Suspicion

A concerned family member tells you as an attorney she suspects her mother is being abused, neglected, or exploited by someone. Here are some suggestions you may offer.

First, the daughter should look for proof, so she can explain her findings to the authorities. If her mother can speak and is willing to talk, the daughter should start a conversation to encourage her to discuss her current situation.

Open ended questions may elicit disclosures. How does she seem? Has her mood changed over time? Does she seem nervous or anxious? Does she have bruises or complaints of unusual pains?

Next, the daughter should check her medications. The daughter should have a current list of medications and dosages to verify the amount in the bottles appears correct.

What is the appearance of her mother? Is she bathed and wearing clean clothes? Are there unpleasant odors coming from her or in her living space?

Are the bills paid? Is she suddenly living below her means and not enjoying former pleasures, yet should be able to afford these things?

The daughter should keep an eye on the bank accounts and investment accounts, too. Are there any large, unwarranted withdrawals from her accounts or large checks being written to caregivers or other service personnel?

The daughter should pull her credit reports from all three credit bureaus (use and check the information against bills, credit cards in their wallet, actual mortgages, etc. I met a woman whose elderly grandmother had her identity stolen and someone had bought a couple of houses in her name.

These are all bits of evidence that daughter may give to an investigator.

One elderly man, whose children all lived far away, had a caregiver who was selling off his belongings and going to take him back to her home country with his money. One of his adult children took some time off work to make a surprise visit and found his father packing up to leave the next day without a word to his family. The caregiver had the man convinced that she was his family and no one else really cared about him. The son called the police, got an attorney, and went to court to stop them from being able to leave.

Detecting elder abuseAgencies Involved in Suspected Abuse

Once the daughter has gathered evidence, most states or counties have a Department of Protective Services that focuses on elder abuse. That is usually the a good place to start.

She could also contact the National Adult Protective Services Association or National Center on Elder Abuse – Administration on Aging 800-677-1116. Both of these can groups can give her local numbers to call for help.

If the daughter suspects a caregiver who has been hired through an agency, she should contact the agency directly. Most agencies will take action immediately. If they don’t, she should call the authorities and work with a different agency.

The moral of the story is: Family members have to be involved and take action.

Faye Levow is the author of this piece.

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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