Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
NOTE: Victims of one form of elder abuse are at the highest risk for other forms of abuse.
It is vitally important that society as a whole and individuals in particular become alert to this problem. The suffering is often in silence.
If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on. Remember, it is not your role to verify that abuse is occurring, only to alert others of your suspicions.
What Types of Court Cases Involve Elder Abuse?
With this epidemic of elder abuse in our society at large, of course we have begun seeing it across the board in our courts. Elder abuse can be seen in virtually any court: criminal, civil, family, probate, juvenile, even traffic courts.
One case we handled at Hartley, Maxwell & Castellano began as an Elder Abuse Restraining Order; became a revocation of fraudulently acquired Durable Power of Attorney; turned into a Conservatorship of the Person and Estate; and resulted, finally, in criminal prosecution of the abuser. In just one case, we dealt with the following problems:
- This case traversed three different courtrooms, with three different case numbers and three different case names;
- Adult protective services had no interest in the financial abuse occurring in this case, where a young woman had gained control of the elder couple’s finances and had begun transferring property and bank accounts into her name;
- An investment broker was involved in assisting the young woman to procure a Durable Power of Attorney and helped her liquidate a good portion of the funds this elderly couple had saved all their lives, and needed to continue to live on;
- The fraudulently obtained funds were traced into a new property purchased by the young woman and we were able to recover those funds;
- Most disturbing was that the physical abuse involved was aimed at incapacitating the elderly couple so the young woman could gain control of their real estate and bank accounts. These elders were left in their own excrement; had bedsores; were subjected to isolation and threats that they would lose their home if they cooperated with APS; and of course, the young woman in question was scoring hits off the elderly couple’s medications and denying them the benefit of their meds.
All of this was complicated by the fact that we were dealing with a second husband and second wife resulting in internecine rivalry between two sets of adult children; and on top of that husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and wife was diagnosed with advanced dementia. These poor old folks could not bear witness on their own behalf; we had to develop the evidence to get them safe.
Once we were able to oust the young woman from the Durable Power of Attorney and from control of the elderly couple, their finances, their home, and their prescriptions, we saw significant improvement in both husband and wife. Oddly, neither currently has Alzheimer’s or dementia; those were mistaken diagnoses, believed to have been made by symptoms created by denial of appropriate medication, neglect and abuse of the elderly couple’s physical needs.
And what enabled the Courts to grant our clients such sweeping relief? Evidence. Admissible evidence, and quick action once the elderly couple’s family members twigged to what was happening to their loved ones.