Elder abuse is where child abuse was
years ago. Under-reported. Poorly understood. And off the public's
radar. Fortunately, many efforts are being made today to bring the
growing problem into the light of day. That's the goal of Elder Abuse
Awareness Day, June 15th.
In March of this year,
90-year-old actor Mickey Rooney told a Senate committee about his own
experience with elder abuse, saying his stepson intimidated him, refused
him food and withheld medications. Rooney ultimately got a restraining
order against his adult stepson, but many seniors are too frail or
otherwise too vulnerable to do so. "If it can happen to me, it can
happen to anyone," Rooney said.
While elder abuse can be emotional and physical, the kind that most often comes to my attention as an estate planning attorney is
financial abuse.The Institute of Aging describes elder financial this
way: "Taking, secreting or appropriating money or property of an elder
or dependent adult by a person who has the care or custody of, or who
stands in a position of trust to, that elder or dependent adult."
There are plenty of
people out there ready and willing to defraud vulnerable seniors -
trust mills, annuity scams, identity theft, sweepstakes scams and the
list goes on. But more shockingly, the majority of financial crimes
against seniors are perpetrated by family, "friends" and caregivers.
One particularly egregious
example comes from Long Beach, California, where part of the "care" Li
Ching Lu gave to a 74-year-old stroke victim included stealing her
funds. Lu used the funds to buy a BMW, a Porsche, a house, and pay her
son's college tuition.
caregivers helping seniors do this vital work admirably. So if your aged
loved one is getting assistance from a caregiver, you need not be
paranoid. But you should be prudent.Here are some possible signals of
Also, if you need to hire a caregiver for your elderly loved one,
you may wish to go with an agency rather than with a private individual.
Although an agency is more expensive, agency supervision can provide an
extra measure of protection. Another tip: Visit your loved one often
and/or arrange for someone else to do so. Like I said, isolation is a
fertile ground for abuse to grow undetected.
If you suspect financial
or any other kind of elder abuse, don't stay silent. Call the Florida
Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96ABUSE.
Attorney Joseph S. Karp is a
Florida Bar Certified and Nationally Certified Elder Law Attorney focusing on
Elder Law, Probate, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Special Needs Planning
and Estate Litigation. He is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell. Mr. Karp is the
founder of The Karp Law Firm, a South Florida law firm with offices in Palm
Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach and St. Lucie, Florida. Mr. Karp was named a
2011 SuperLawyer by SuperLawyer Magazine and a member of the 2011
Florida Legal Elite by Florida Trend Magazine. He is admitted to
practice law in New York as well as Florida. Visit Mr. Karp's Florida Elder Law and Estate Planning
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