Today Your Legal Corner will discuss “Exploitation of the Elderly, the perpetrators.”
During the months of May and June, three forums were held in the State of New Jersey, where varied participants were selected to brainstorm and provide input to the White House Conference on Aging. Categories included retirement security, healthy aging, long-term support services and elder justice.
As a member of a panel on Elder Justice, we discussed the many issues including identifying victims, perpetrators and possible solutions to the exploitation of the elderly.
Before we can consider possible solutions, we need to know who the perpetrators are and this is an issue beyond painful. Generally, the greatest numbers of perpetrators who exploit vulnerable adults are family members, caregivers and professionals.
With family members, rarely are large funds removed from the victim initially. Rather, it’s a game of trust, of a wolf or wolves in sheep’s clothing, gradually entering the victim’s circle of trust. Family members have a tendency to justify their actions, thinking perhaps they are the ones doing all the work, or acting as a sole caregiver, giving him or her permission to steal as a false sense of entitlement. Often these thoughts are coupled with real life problems the family member may have such as substance abuse, gambling or financial issues of their own. How does an elder combat family members who are stealing from them?
There is not one easy answer. However, much like a professional service, contracts called care agreements can be drawn up which can specifically detail the work that will be done for the parent and the amount of money to be paid. This agreement which should be discussed with an elder law attorney who can advise of the many options available and assist you on the one that may fit your situation the best.
Caregivers can be family, neighbor or someone hired by the elder or family to provide care. Do you remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes? The caregiver gives the pretense of care and concern but the senior does not realize they are being used. This best describes the devious caregiver. It is sad to say that their claim of love and devotion is questionable.
The bottom line is no matter how sickly or busy we are with our own lives, we cannot leave the care of our aging parents to others. For as parents age, they become more easily swayed or manipulated by the thoughts of those who surround them. If we fail to visit or spend time with them regularly, the risk is great that someone else will.
Still, it is important to note that the legal professionals themselves are not beyond reproach. Just this past April, one lawyer in Atlantic County received 10 years in prison for stealing over a million dollars from her elderly clients from 2006 through 2013, heinously breaching attorney/client trust.
Elders, if not careful are also routinely overcharged for services and subject to fraudulent scams. Scams and fraud may include health care, identity theft, Internet requests, emails and real property.
When of sound mind meet with an attorney and prepare your legal documents.
It is all too obvious and at times tedious and tiresome, but we all need to vigilantly Report And Protect our elderly.
Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner, will present the “RAP” sheet to help respond to the increasing dilemma of “Exploitation of the Elderly.”
Victoria M. Dalton is an attorney with the law offices of Hoffman DiMuzio.
Send questions, or comments to Victoria at [email protected]. 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.