As an adult child, it can be difficult to watch your mother age and become vulnerable. Under the best of circumstances you undoubtedly worry about her. If you have reason to suspect that your mother is the victim of elder abuse, however, that worry takes on a heightened level of importance. A Baldwin Hills elder law attorney at Collins Law Firm explains what you should do if you suspect that your mother is the victim of elder abuse.
The Rise of the Elderly
The older population has grown at a historic rate in recent years. As reflect by U.S. Census Bureau figures which anticipate the population aged 65 and older to nearly double from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050. For the first time in history, the number of older adults (age 65 and older) is expected to outnumber their younger counterparts (age 21 and younger) that same year. Even before that, in 2030, experts tell us that one in five Americans will be retirement age.
How Prevalent Is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is hardly a new phenomenon. The rapid increase in the number of seniors in the United States, however, has caused a corresponding increase in the issue of elder abuse. Elder abuse can take several forms, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Conservative facts and figures related to elder abuse in the U.S. include the following:
- More than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse at some point.
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim.
- only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- Only 30 percent of victims of elder sexual abuse report it to authorities.
- More than 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90 percent report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected.
What Can I Do If I Suspect My Mother Is a Victim?
If you begin to suspect that your mother is a victim of elder abuse – in any of its forms – you undoubtedly want to jump in and protect your mother immediately. At the same time, you may not how to do that. Having never encountered this problem before, you may feel lost and without resources to help you. Some steps you may wish to take include:
- Try and get your mother to talk to you. Victims of elder abuse are frequently reluctant to speak up. Knowing that, assure your mother that there is no reason to be ashamed of being a victim nor to fear reprisals. If your mother suffers from dementia, or is otherwise unable to communicate clearly, it may be impossible to obtain confirmation; however, if your mother is capable of confirming your suspicions, gently try and get her to do so.
- Meet with a supervisor or administrator. Schedule an immediate meeting with a supervisor if the potential perpetrator is a home health aide or someone similar or with an administrator if your mother is in a facility. Sometimes a meeting can be extremely productive while other times you will only hear denials as the facility/company tries to protect itself from liability.
- Make a police report. Elder abuse can be a criminal offense. Making a police report creates a paper trial and will hopefully lead to an investigation.
- File a formal complaint. In California, you can file a formal complaint about a health care facility with the California Department of Health.
- Consult an elder law attorney about your legal options. While elder abuse is often a crime, elder abuse can also be the basis for a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the facility. It is always a good idea to discuss this possibility with an experienced elder law attorney. In addition, if your mother is reluctant to speak out, or is suffering from dementia, you may need to petition for guardianship in order to move her to a new facility or replace a current caregiver.
Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to disinherit an heir to your estate, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney near you. Contact the Collins Law Group by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.