Elder Abuse A Widespread And Underreported Problem
Palo Alto, CA (Law Firm Newswire) August 30, 2013 – June 15, 2013 was designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by the United Nations.
The day was set aside to encourage a wider recognition of elder abuse in communities and as a call for countries to work on policies that support respect for the elderly.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 6 percent of the elderly population experiences some form of abuse; the numbers are unclear, as the abuse, more often than not, goes unreported. Elder researchers say that abuse of the elderly is one of the biggest issues facing senior citizens throughout the world.
“Elder abuse here in California is legally defined as the mistreatment of someone age 65 or older,” stated Palo Alto estate planning attorney Michael Gilfix. “Elder abuse is not restricted to the occasional ‘bad’ nursing home or unstable home environment. It can and does happen in all types of care settings and even the best institutional care facility.”
Elder abuse may include one or all of the following: abandonment; abduction; physical abuse; sexual abuse; psychological abuse; financial abuse; neglect; and isolation. Elder abuse has wide-ranging consequences; elderly individuals who have been abused are twice as likely to need hospitalization as those who have not suffered abuse; as much as three times more likely to die as non-victims and four times likely as non-victims to need nursing home care. As many as 5 million elderly people are neglected or abused yearly in the United States, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. Elder care researchers state that at least one in ten elders may experience abuse, but only one in every 23 cases is reported.
Elder care advocates are pushing for members of the public to be better informed about elder abuse warning signs, and urge that people contact local police or Adult Protective Services in their area if they suspect that abuse may be occurring.
Signs of possible abuse include an elderly person who becomes socially withdrawn, who has unexplained bruises or other injuries, who uncharacteristically stops caring about personal hygiene, unusual banking withdrawals or changes to a will or other estate planning changes, and loss of property.
The best defense is a carefully considered, sophisticated estate plan. Such a plan includes a living trust, a Durable Power of Attorney, and an Advance Directive. Each document names a trusted person to take over management of assets and health care if a person becomes fragile. Care must be taken to choose individuals who are truly trustworthy, and to sometimes build in oversight by a third party.