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Exploitation of the Elderly

Today Your Legal Corner will discuss "Exploitation of the Elderly."

Nothing is more painful than suspecting that an elder is being abused. Even more emotional is gathering the evidence to document and end the abuse. This crime is vastly underreported, as the victim is afraid of not being believed, retaliation from his or her caregiver, embarrassment or fear of the unknown.

Mickey Rooney

Elder abuse received national attention when renowned actor Mickey Rooney went public with his situation. The idea that a family member would take advantage of an actor so well known even the victim himself found it most difficult to ascertain at first.

Mickey Rooney was born September 23rd 1920 and died just last year April 6th, 2014. His life was one of fame and glory living the Hollywood lifestyle through out most of his working life. He first took the stage in his parent's vaudeville act, working afterwards as a comedian, then a film, theater and television actor. He had numerous artistic projects to his credit; however the one I fondly remember was his performance in the 1979 Broadway musical, Sugar Babies.

Sadly, his talent is not the only thing he will be remembered for. Rather, the fact someone so well known as Mickey Rooney could be financially exploited, physically assaulted, abused and left penniless by a family member is a lesson to us all.

In the United States alone, over a half a million reports are received regarding elder abuse each year and the numbers are growing. Help in the form of an active response system needs to be in place to combat this ever increasing silent war, called elder abuse.

Report and Protect

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss and create together, the RAP sheet, steps to Report And Protect the elderly.

The RAP sheet is an itemized guide to consider for anyone fighting elder abuse; and once finished, the RAP sheet will be available to everyone by email simply by submitting a request.

This week we will discuss and identify the characteristics of an elder abuse victim.

Identification of the elder abuse victim

In my experience, elder abuse usually does not just happen. It is a situation that is carefully tested and if left untreated, unnoticed or unreported escalates over time.

Seniors are targeted because statistically they hold a large percentage of the nation's wealth. Characteristically, the current elders are still a product of manners, and privacy, having amassed a sizeable estate due to a humble life style. For example, many drove Fords when they could have afforded Mercedes.

Certain conditions increase the risk of victimization. Isolation, loneliness and a recent loss of a spouse or close partner create vulnerability. In one instance, a well-meaning physician ordered his patient to attend a local senior center daily to help with the severe depression the patient was suffering from after the loss of a spouse. While this is typically good advice, it is where the perpetrator first identified his victim.

Likewise, seniors with mental and physical disabilities are also particularly vulnerable for abuse. It is well documented as we age our mental capacities decline. This is especially true when the brain is left inactive, focused on television, as opposed to puzzles, reading, taking a class or developing a new hobby.

Physical limitations will increase with age too, drawing attention for possible abuse. However, in some cases the rate at which deterioration occurs can be minimized with regular exercise, and an overall healthy life style. Remember, there is a mind-body connection.

Know the warning signs.

As Mickey Rooney said at a Congressional hearing, "If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone!"

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will continue to create the RAP sheet discussing "Exploitation of the Elderly, the Perpetrators."

Victoria M. Dalton is an attorney with the law offices of Hoffman DiMuzio.

Send questions, or comments to Victoria at vdalton@hoffmandimuzio.com or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational articles about the law and is not legal advice.

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