What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

Also known as financial exploitation, elder financial abuse is defined by the Older Americans Act as “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, that results in depriving an older individual of the rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”

In other words, any time a person illegally benefits from the assets of an elderly individual, elder financial abuse has occurred.

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that the rate of elder financial abuse is exceedingly high, with as many as 1 in 20 older adults reporting financial mistreatment. Sadly, less than 50% of financial exploitation cases are reported.

Who commits these acts?

Most often, those who take advantage of the elderly are “trusted” people, such as family members, friends, and caregivers. Other individuals such as nursing home staff, neighbors, pastors, and bank employees may also use their positions to influence the elderly. New romantic interests may also coerce the elderly into changing their finances. According to NAPSA, “90% of abusers are family members or trusted others.”

What are the common ways the elderly are exploited?

The most common areas in which the elderly are manipulated include the following:

  • Powers of attorney
  • Joint bank accounts
  • Deeds
  • Wills
  • Beneficiary designations

In these instances, the elderly victim often allows a trusted person access to his/her finances and assets through these documents. The trusted person will then use the funds for his/her own purposes, often neglecting the victim’s financial needs. This can lead to stolen money, assets, or properties. Some victims may find themselves suddenly destitute or homeless, without insurance, and robbed of their savings.

One recent study found that “of the seniors who experienced fraud, 1.8 % lost their home or other major assets, […] 6.7% skipped medical care, and 4.2% reduced their nutritional intake for budgetary reasons.”

Who is at risk?

Most at risk are those elderly people who suffer from mental or physical disabilities including Alzheimer’s or dementia, those who are single and isolated, those who are unfamiliar with financial matters or technology, and those with predictable financial patterns (such as a monthly pension or social security check).

There are two significant qualifications for victimization:

  • Lack of mental capacity – a condition in which an elderly person does not understand the nature and effect of his/her actions

OR

  • Undue influence – a situation in which a trusted person abuses his/her position and overcomes the free will of the elderly person with threats or intimidation

What should I look for if I suspect financial abuse?

Signs of elder financial exploitation can include the following:

  • Large bank withdrawals or transfers between accounts
  • Eviction notices, disconnected utilities, unpaid bills
  • Unexplained ATM withdrawals
  • Forged documents
  • Undocumented financial arrangements
  • Sudden and new “best friends”
  • Missing property and belongings
  • Substandard care

What can I do?

If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of elder financial abuse, contact an attorney immediately. An attorney should act quickly to stop assets from being transferred or, if they have been transferred, sue for damages.

If you believe you have a case, please contact us at 740-374-5346 or use our contact form. We will work with you to ensure the safety and financial security of your loved ones.

What Is Elder Care Neglect?

As our country’s population ages, it is inevitable that many will need additional care. While some people may be able to care for elderly family members themselves, others may need to hire home health aides or move loved ones into nursing homes or other assisted living facilities.

While many of these facilities offer quality care to their residents, it is important to be able to recognize signs of negligence and neglect.

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, “Nursing home neglect is the most common type of elder abuse in nursing facilities, with 95 percent of nursing home residents reporting neglect in the past year.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 500,000 adults over the age of sixty are abused or neglected each year, and it is likely there are many cases that are never reported.

While often discussed under the heading of elder abuse, nursing home neglect presents itself in subtly different ways. Nursing home abuse occurs when a caregiver harms a patient. Nursing home neglect, however, occurs when a caregiver provides substandard care or commits a breach of duty.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect
While nursing home neglect varies based on individual cases, there are four major categories:

  • Medical Neglect – when a nursing home fails to appropriately attend to or prevent medical issues of the patients, such as diabetes care, bed sores, infections, mobility, and cognitive disorders
  • Neglect of Basic Needs – when a facility fails to ensure that patients have a clean, safe environment, such as appropriate food, water, and shelter
  • Neglect of Personal Hygiene – when a nursing home fails to provide satisfactory aid to residents who need assistance with tasks, such as cleaning, bathing, tooth brushing, laundry, and/or other types of hygiene
  • Social or Emotional Neglect – when staff members demean patients, such as consistent rejection, abandonment, or verbal abuse

Warning Signs of Nursing Facility Neglect
Because warning signs of neglect can be slight, they can be difficult to identify. At times, depending on the type of negligence, there may be no outward signs of neglect. Often, behavioral changes in patients will be noticed only by those who see their loved ones frequently.

Although neglect can be difficult to identify and prove, these are some of the most common signs:

  • Malnutrition, dehydration, and/or sudden weight loss
  • Bed sores and/or pressure ulcers
  • Falls that result in injury
  • Withdrawal from activities/socializing
  • Change in hygiene habits or physical appearance
  • Hazards such as slippery floors, bad lighting, or unsafe furniture and equipment

What Can I Do?

If you believe your loved one is being neglected or abused, move him/her to a safe environment and call the police or Adult Protective Services. The next step is to consider taking legal action. Nursing home negligence and/or abuse may be seen as a crime and could be grounds for a civil lawsuit.

The facility may be liable if it participated in the following behavior:

  • Negligent Medical Treatment – failure to provide correct medication and/or treatment to residents
  • Negligent Supervision – failure to properly supervise residents to avoid falls and other accidents
  • Negligent Hiring – failure to complete appropriate background checks when hiring employees who have records of abuse or negligence, or the improper training and/or supervision of employees
  • Negligent Safety – failure to maintain a safe facility with enforced health and safety practices, such as protection from other residents, prevention from accidents, and maintenance of living conditions

Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels has successfully represented clients who have been harmed in nursing homes and other assisted-living arrangements, and we have extensive knowledge of both state and federal nursing care laws and regulations. Additionally, we work on a contingent fee: there is no fee if there is no recovery. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of neglect or preventable injuries at a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact us at 740-374-5346. We are here to help.

Elder Abuse: Misusing Power of Attorney Documents

Unfortunately, financial fraud targeting the aging population are extremely common within the United States.

Some these scams even involve relatives, friends, and family members who steal funds from their elder family member when they receive power of attorney. In a power of attorney scam, the family members who have been granted power will claim they removed funds from the elder individual’s account to protect it and keep the senile victim from spending it. In reality, however, the money is spent elsewhere.

The victims could lose their retirement, family home, and any other funds they need to pay for medical care, assistance, and cost of living.

Older Americans at Risk for Elder Abuse

Older Americans are at high-risk for elder abuse, especially fraud and financial abuse. An older adult may lose some degree of their cognitive abilities and may have difficulty understanding the complexity of their finances. That is why they offer power of attorney to a loved one that they trust to handle their finances for them.

How A Typical Power of Attorney Abuse Case Works

There are numerous ways for loved ones and caretakers to abuse their power of attorney. However, one example is an elderly individual that has no family. Therefore, they give their power of attorney to a distant relative. The distant relative uses that power to take money from bank accounts, drain investment accounts, and so forth.

Sadly, victims assume that their loved ones are doing it to invest or protect their money, not realizing that they have been robbed.

What is Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney is a written, legal authorization that gives a person the authority to act on another’s behalf. This might include the financial power of attorney, which gives an individual authority to manage all financial aspects of the estate, including bank accounts, mortgages, investments, etc.

When a trustworthy person has power of attorney, it can be a benefit for someone who is cognitively declining too far to manage their finances.

However, when this type of power falls to someone with greedy hands, they can use that power to steal money and assets and leave their loved one without any money. Sometimes, elderly people are in nursing homes where they must depend on others to care for them, so it’s easy for people to take advantage of them.

Taking Action Against Those Abusing their Power

Those who abuse their power with a financial power of attorney can be held accountable for such actions. Under these agreements, there are strict clauses that demand the appropriate behavior from the person granted power.

Some violations include the breach of fiduciary duty and conversion. In this case, an older adult can file a lawsuit against that family member or friend and seek damages — including repayment of all stolen funds, pain, and suffering.

Prevention is Best

The best way to avoid these situations is to always give the financial power of attorney to someone you trust. You may want to hire an attorney to review your power of attorney, screen family members, and ensure you give power to a person who is honest, mature, and more than capable of managing your funds in your best interest. Contact Ethan Vessels to see if you have a case by calling (740) 374-5346 or filling out our contact form.

Is My Loved One Safe in a Nursing Home Facility?

Placing a loved one in a nursing home facility is never an easy decision. Family members can have peace of mind and ensure that their loved one is protected by performing their due diligence.

Even when adult children can no longer care for a family member, they should not feel guilty. There are usually numerous qualified nursing home facilities that provide above-standard care. However, it is important that you continue to look after your loved ones and make sure all is well.

Pay Attention to the Facility

During a consultation and tour, you will receive a sales pitch from staff about what makes their institution great. While it is easy to enjoy all the benefits and the appealing pamphlet, look around and observe what you see. How do the patients in the facility look? Do caretakers seem to enjoy their job? Is there peace and order, or does the staff looked stressed out and disorganized?

The best time to explore a nursing home is after dinner when there are fewer staff members, residents are done eating, and the facility is not expecting a high visitor count.

Make sure there are no persistent odors such as urine or ammonia, or patients who smell as though they have not been bathed.

Look for the Warning Signs

Watch your loved one for the red flags that he or she might be a victim of abuse. These red flags include changes in personality, mood, eating habits, or sleeping. Not all incidents of abuse turn out as bruises or broken bones.

If your loved one is showing signs of anxiety or depression, or he or she seems fearful or lethargic, speak with the on-site manager about your concerns. Also, ask your loved one if they like the facility and if they are happy. Let them know that they should never fear retribution and encourage them to be honest with you.

Keep in Touch

Staying in touch with your loved one, even if it is by phone, can ensure them that you not only care but will give you more opportunity to catch any warning signs of abuse. It is best that you visit your loved one in person as often as possible so that you can see their physical appearance and demeanor.

Know Where to Go When Abuse Occurs

If you notice signs of abuse, go through the proper steps to report the suspected abuse. You will start with the facility’s on-site manager and make sure they are aware of those concerns. A good manager will investigate your claims, examine records, and report back to you with his or her findings.

If the manager does not get back with you or does not provide you with the response or results you would expect, then you can file a formal grievance against the facility. Your concerns should be addressed within a 48-hour window when an official complaint is formed. From there, you can contact the nursing home administrator or the local regulatory agency to report the suspected abuse.

Contact an Attorney

Extended care facilities often have large legal firms protecting them in cases of abuse claims. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to obtain the services of a nursing home abuse attorney. Ethan Vessels is a personal injury attorney in Marietta, Ohio who can provide counsel for your nursing home case. Contact us today at 740-374-5346 or fill out our contact form.