Elder Abuse – It’s not exactly a household word. While everyone has a mental picture of what that term means, most people don’t know how widespread the problem has become. The very victims are often unable to report the problem – if they even know they are being victimized. Those that do realize that they have become a victim are often too embarrassed or afraid to come forward.
Experts say that 16% of America’s elderly are routinely abused. MetLife found that elder abuse costs seniors billions of dollars annually.
So what exactly is elder abuse? For some, it is physical mistreatment. Poorly paid or uncaring health care workers that fail to properly feed and cloth their patients. We are aware of many cases of healthcare workers stealing prescription medications from patients and either selling them on the street or taking the medications for themselves. As I write this there are hundreds of suffering patients who aren’t receiving their pain medications.
While the physical examples of elder abuse are certainly cruel and despicable, financial elder abuse is the more insidious of the two. It’s rampant and most often the family members of the victim aren’t even aware that the problem is happening. For example, when my mother needed to go to a nursing home, I went to her condo to package up her belongings. Most of her personal jewelry was gone. I say “most” because the good jewelry such as her wedding ring and diamonds were gone. Just the cosmetic remained.
Did my mother give away her wedding ring? I doubt it. But where did it go? A neighbor? A worker in the building? One of the many home health care aides? We will never know. While my mother was certainly free to give away her possessions, in her last months on her own she did not have the mental capacity to understand her actions.
In another example, a business colleague asked me to review his late mother’s probate proceedings. Apparently during his mother’s last years, a prior alcohol addiction completely overwhelmed her. She drank more heavily and saw her family less. Whether she didn’t want her grandchildren to see her drunk or not is just speculation on my part. What I do know is that after her death, a much younger, unemployed neighbor showed up with a will purporting to leave her entire estate to him and nothing to her children and grandchildren. The neighbor, who claimed he was such a great friend to the elderly woman, wouldn’t even agree to pay for the funeral out of his new found wealth.
There is a common theme with these stories. Studies show that women are far more likely to be victims of elder abuse than men. 70% of the victims are female according to recent studies.
What is most astonishing is how many families don’t fight elder abuse. We understand that the elderly victims may not have the capacity to fight but the families can and should fight. Whether physical or economic, elder abuse is a crime. Plain and simple. If someone stole your car, you would call the police. But when a family suspects that a loved one isn’t receiving proper care or things go missing from a loved one’s home, few people intervene.
The lack of intervention often is because the people committing the crimes are other family members. While strangers and care givers commit their fair share of elder abuse, in many instances the person committing the fraud is another family member. That makes everyone uncomfortable and while families may be react internally, few report crimes to authorities or hire a lawyer to undo an inheritance fraud or improper will.
If you are the victim of elder abuse or believe that someone has wrongfully coerced a loved one to change their will, we can help. The key to success is quick action. Often we can freeze funds before they are distributed or at least keep the fraudsters from spending the money while the claims are being resolved in court.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco, California. Fraud recovery available in many jurisdictions.
Need more information? Our Due Diligence blog has a search engine located in the upper right hand corner. For more information on specific fraud topics, just type in the key words “inheritance fraud” or “elder abuse” in the search bar. We have many informative articles on our site.
Post by Brian Mahany