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Elder Abuse: Why It Occurs and How To Prevent It

According to the American Psychological Society, elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or financial harm on an older adult. Additionally, elder abuse can manifest as intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver. Elder abuse has a variety of causes. It is important that family members and caregivers of senior adults be aware of the causes of elder abuse in order to prevent abuse and keep senior loved ones safe and secure.

Elder abuse can occur for a variety of reasons and complex issues. Family stressors are one of the reasons elder abuse occurs. Family members who are charged with caring for a senior family member can often become stressed and run-down dealing with the demands of caring for their loved one. In addition, these family members often feel isolated and do not take time to recharge. These factors can lead to elder abuse. A violent family past can also continue to hold on to family members and this can lead to elder abuse. Financial burdens of a multigenerational household can also lead to financial elder abuse.

Caregiver stress can lead to elder abuse. Caregiving can create stress for the caregiver and the care recipient. This stress can lead to potentially harmful situations for the senior adult. If the caregiver is caring for a person who is sick or physically or mentally impaired, this can lead to stress that would cause a caregiver to abuse the care recipient. The caregiver can feel alone or helpless. Caregiving can lead to emotional and physical stress and exhaustion. These feelings can be overwhelming and may lead to elder abuse.

Certain societal issues can lead to elder abuse. Often senior adults are viewed as insignificant or unimportant. This has in many cases lead to the devaluing of this population, making them easy targets from abuse. This can make the senior more vulnerable to elder abuse. This is evidenced by the fact that scams and financial abuse among the elderly population continues to be a major problem.

How can elder abuse be prevented? Education is one way that elder abuse can be prevented. It is important that caregivers and family members be educated about the risk factors and signs of elder abuse in order to prevent it from occurring. It is also important that families and seniors be aware of financial scams that target the elderly in order to prevent seniors from being taken advantage of financially.

Respite care is also an effective way to prevent elder abuse. There are adult day cares and respite care agencies available to provide care for a few hours a week to take stress off of family members or caregivers. Respite care is especially important for those caring for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or are severely disabled. This gives the caregivers time to rest physically, mentally, and emotionally. Along with respite care, it is important for caregivers to maintain social contact and support. Often caregivers are thrust into difficult situations for which they are ill prepared. They often neglect social interactions. It is important not to neglect these interactions, and even to seek support from groups or people who are in a similar caregiving situation. This can help to deal with stresses in caregiving.

Counseling is another option for preventing elder abuse. Caregivers and families alike can benefit from counseling. Counseling can help families deal with past issues, as well as dealing with the emerging stress of caregiving.

Knowing the causes of elder abuse and methods of prevention can help keep elders safe. Family members and caregivers should know and be aware of these. Elder abuse is a major problem and solutions must be found to protect our seniors.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help.

An Increase in Elder Abuse During COVID-19

In both long-term care facilities and at home, the elderly population in America are facing increasing incidents of mistreatment and abuse as social isolation during the pandemic which creates more vulnerabilities. Stay-at-home guidelines isolate seniors from the systems that can protect them like medical providers, congregations, extended family, and senior centers. The high rate of coronavirus deaths for those Americans 70 and older increases fear and their dependency on those who might seek to take advantage of them. Sadly, most of these abusers are family members, such as an adult child or spouse, followed by caregivers or staff in a long-term care facility.

Four Common Types of Elder Abuse

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists four common types of elder abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and neglect and financial abuse. Many incidents of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are underreported, especially during social isolation. According to a PBS report, Paul Caccamise, the vice president for program at Lifespan, Rochester, NY, says that the stream of calls reporting abuse is lower than usual. Yet, elder abuse has not gone away during the pandemic. Many referrals of abuse to Lifespan come from home care agencies, physicians, or hospitals, reporting suspected signs of abuse. Now that many older Americans are avoiding interactions with doctors and hospitals, the monitoring function is no longer available. Similarly, for those elderly in long-term care facilities, family members are no longer allowed direct access to check on the welfare of their loved ones.

Elder Abuse Issues During Coronavirus

This situation is not exclusive to New York. Across the country, the number of reports of elder abuse is decreasing during the coronavirus pandemic. The Minnesota Elder Justice Center’s executive director Amanda Vickstrom understands that although the quantity of cases is down, the amount of help our elder Americans need is up. About the disparity in case reports versus senior needs, Vickstrom states, “It doesn’t tell me that suddenly we’ve reduced elder abuse. It tells me that people are unable to reach out for help.”

Other support groups for the elderly like the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) are seeing similar trends. NCALL founder Bonnie Brandl says, “Abusers are using the threat of the virus and the isolation to provide misinformation to people.” Isolated seniors can fall prey to threats of being visited by a caregiver who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or sent to a nursing home where COVID-19 death rates are disproportionately high.

Caregiver promises to keep a senior safe if they hand over checks or other assets during this pandemic is not uncommon as many Americans have lost their jobs or have reduced hours of income and are facing financially tough times. If the senior lives with an abuser, the situation can become desperate as abusers can threaten to hurt or manipulate the senior who, in isolation, has little confidence to seek outside help. The coronavirus pandemic, which already disproportionately impacts older people’s health, makes them more vulnerable to abandonment, neglect, financial, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.

The increase of seniors’ dependency on their caretakers at home and staff in long-term care facilities can incentivize abusers to target these older adults. Many seniors are targeted as they have resources saved, consistent monthly incomes from investment sources, or Social Security benefits. Desperate for their health and safety, many seniors will turn over their money, hoping that it will be key to their survival. There are also thousands of reports of scam artists offering bogus or nonexistent free home test kits or fake cures, posing as counterfeit charities, or preying on other virus-related fears to gain personal information or money.

How to Help Elderly in Isolation

If you have a senior family member who is socially isolated due to COVID-19, it is crucial to stay engaged with them to prevent their mistreatment. There are programs available that help those who face isolation to stay connected. AARP has a program that provides weekly phone checks provided by vetted volunteers who can spot trouble signs. There are other nonprofits that check to see that seniors have proper resources during the pandemic such as food and medication. Volunteers will also address the emotional needs seniors have during isolation. For many seniors, it will be the only conversation they will have that day. Check with your community and see how you can best protect your senior during the social isolation and vulnerable times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help.

The Unfortunate Increase of Elder Abuse During the Pandemic

Whether at home or in a long-term care facility, America’s elderly are facing increasing incidents of mistreatment and abuse as social isolation during the pandemic creates more vulnerabilities. Stay-at-home guidelines isolate seniors from the systems that can protect them like medical providers, congregations, extended family, and senior centers. The high rate of coronavirus deaths for those Americans 70 and older increases fear and their dependency on those who might seek to take advantage of them. Sadly, most of these abusers are family members, such as an adult child or spouse, followed by caregivers or staff in a long-term care facility.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists four common types of elder abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and neglect and financial abuse. Many incidents of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are underreported, especially during social isolation. According to a PBS report, Paul Caccamise, the vice president for program at Lifespan, Rochester, NY, says that the stream of calls reporting abuse is lower than usual. Yet, elder abuse has not gone away during the pandemic. Many referrals of abuse to Lifespan come from home care agencies, physicians, or hospitals, reporting suspected signs of abuse. Now that many older Americans are avoiding interactions with doctors and hospitals, the monitoring function is no longer available. Similarly, for those elderly in long-term care facilities, family members are no longer allowed direct access to check on the welfare of their loved ones.

This situation is not exclusive to New York. Across the country, the number of reports of elder abuse is decreasing during the coronavirus pandemic. The Minnesota Elder Justice Center’s executive director Amanda Vickstrom understands that although the quantity of cases is down, the amount of help our elder Americans need is up. About the disparity in case reports versus senior needs, Vickstrom states, “It doesn’t tell me that suddenly we’ve reduced elder abuse. It tells me that people are unable to reach out for help.”

Other support groups for the elderly like the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) are seeing similar trends. NCALL founder Bonnie Brandl says, “Abusers are using the threat of the virus and the isolation to provide misinformation to people.” Isolated seniors can fall prey to threats of being visited by a caregiver who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or sent to a nursing home where COVID-19 death rates are disproportionately high.

Caregiver promises to keep a senior safe if they hand over checks or other assets during this pandemic is not uncommon as many Americans have lost their jobs or have reduced hours of income and are facing financially tough times. If the senior lives with an abuser, the situation can become desperate as abusers can threaten to hurt or manipulate the senior who, in isolation, has little confidence to seek outside help. The coronavirus pandemic, which already disproportionately impacts older people’s health, makes them more vulnerable to abandonment, neglect, financial, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.

The increase of seniors’ dependency on their caretakers at home and staff in long-term care facilities can incentivize abusers to target these older adults. Many seniors are targeted as they have resources saved, consistent monthly incomes from investment sources, or Social Security benefits. Desperate for their health and safety, many seniors will turn over their money, hoping that it will be key to their survival. There are also thousands of reports of scam artists offering bogus or nonexistent free home test kits or fake cures, posing as counterfeit charities, or preying on other virus-related fears to gain personal information or money.

If you have a senior family member who is socially isolated due to COVID-19, it is crucial to stay engaged with them to prevent their mistreatment. There are programs available that help those who face isolation to stay connected. AARP and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability have programs that provide weekly phone checks provided by vetted volunteers who can spot trouble signs. There are other nonprofits such as FiftyForward, Senior Ride Nashville, Eras Senior Network of Wisconsin, and many others that check to see that seniors have proper resources during the pandemic such as food and medication. Volunteers will also address the emotional needs seniors have during isolation. For many seniors, it will be the only conversation they will have that day. Check with your community and see how you can best protect your senior during the social isolation and vulnerable times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your legal needs.

Quick Guide to Age Discrimination

Age discrimination in the workplace is a problem that has been addressed by lawmakers since the 1960s but continues to be a serious problem. According to study.com, age discrimination is defined as “the practice of letting a person’s age unfairly become a factor when deciding who receives a new job, promotion, or other job benefits. Decisions about terminating employees also cannot be solely based on their age.” Age discrimination is illegal and there are laws to protect people from it.

The Law

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is the federal law that protects job applicants and workers over the age of 40 from age discrimination. There are a few exceptions of groups that are not included in the ADEA. These include elected officials, military personnel, and independent contractors. The law applies to employers with at least 20 employees or labor organizations with at least 25 members. It also applies to employment agencies, the federal government, and state and local government. Along with the ADEA, all states have laws that protect workers against age discrimination and in most cases, these laws are more stringent than the federal law.

ADEA Protection

Under the ADEA, employers are prohibited from using age considerations in hiring, firing, layoffs, demotions, or promotions. In addition, there are several things employers cannot do. Employers may not mention specific age requirements or preferences when placing ads for jobs or recruiting employees. Employees may not be forced to retire at a certain age except in certain limited cases. Age limits cannot be set or specified for training programs and employers may not retaliate against employees that file age discrimination charges.

In addition, employers who provide benefits must provide those opportunities for all employees, regardless of age. However, with benefits that increase in cost with age, employers may provide the same amount of cost assistance for all employees regardless of cost or age.

Identifying Age Discrimination

Age discrimination can take many forms. Age-related comments or speaking to older employees in a demeaning manner can become harassment due to age. Harassment based on age is a tactic employer may use in an effort to get older employees to quit rather than firing them when they are deemed too old. When a company has a track record of hiring only younger people, this may be a sign of age discrimination. Getting turned down for a promotion that is then given to a younger, less qualified person or being overlooked for challenging work assignments can be signs of age discrimination. If an employer encourages or forces an employee into retirement, this is age discrimination. Oftentimes age discrimination may come in the form of being left out or isolated. Unfair disciplinary action can also be a tactic used to discriminate against older employees. If an employee suspects that he or she is being discriminated against because of age, these indicators may help in deciding if a claim needs to be filed.

Filing a Claim

Any employee has the right to file a claim if they feel they are being discriminated against because of age. If an employee wishes to pursue a claim, they must first file an administrative claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will then contact the employer and investigate the claim. If the EEOC deems the claim to have merit, they will issue a right-to-sue notice.  Then, the employee is allowed to file suit against the employer. Claims must be filed within 90 days of the EEOC’s notice. With the various rules and requirements of this process, it is important to have competent and timely legal advice.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Trump Signs Law Encouraging Reporting of Financial Elder Abuse

Financial elder abuse is a growing problem in our country. Financial institutions are often the first to witness elderly clients making unusual transactions that may be linked to a scam. Accordingly, on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act into law . That act contains a section  which is designed to encourage the reporting of elder (age 65 and older) financial abuse witnessed by financial institutions. Although the new law does not require that the institutions report financial abuse directed towards senior citizens, it does give them an incentive to do so. The new law provides immunity from lawsuits alleging elder financial abuse if the financial institution reports it to state or federal law enforcement agents. Law enforcement has an obligation to investigate once a claim is made. To qualify for immunity, a financial institution has to create and administer a training program for employees to teach the employees how to spot elder financial abuse. 

As good of an idea this is, it is by no means a novel concept.  The new law was inspired by Maine’s Senior$afe program. Senior$afe encourages state regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to work together on educating banking and credit union workers to spot and stop elder financial abuse. When elders have a trusted third party to talk to about their finances, they are less likely to fall victim to elder financial abuse, and this program has found success in reducing the amount of elders who fall victim to these scams.

Moreover, in 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a report stating how reporting elder financial abuse has already become a respected norm in hundreds of counties around the country. The report provides that these counties created voluntary community-based partnerships to prevent, detect, and respond to elder financial abuse situations. These partnerships often include entities such as financial institutions, adult protective services, and law enforcement. The CFPB found that these partnerships can be incredibly effective in protecting their elderly citizens. What’s more, in states without elder financial abuse protection laws, these community efforts have created a sense of responsibility within these counties to protect their most vulnerable from financial scams, without reward or threat of prosecution against financial institutions. Following this report, the CFPB released a resource guide and best practices to help and encourage other counties across the US to adopt their own protection partnerships. Among other recommendations, the CFPB encourages communities to directly include law enforcement and financial institutions in these partnerships.  Also, the CFPB recommends that partnerships which serve diverse areas engage with groups that are already entrenched in the community, such as service groups or faith-based organizations.

Protecting our most vulnerable is important to providing a safe and prosperous society for all citizens. These community-based partnerships and the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act are both steps in the right direction towards protecting those who aren’t able to protect themselves. If you suspect financial elder abuse, first report it to law enforcement as soon as possible. If you suspect that someone is misusing a power of attorney to take advantage of a senior citizen, then please contact Add Goff, Elder Law Attorney.