As the population of older individuals continues to increase, the issue of elder abuse is gaining more prominence in the media and in the American conscience. When a parent starts to really show signs of aging, a decision must be made regarding the parent’s care. People often resist the idea of sending a parent to a long-term care facility, preferring that a family member cares for the parent instead. What if you begin to suspect that the family member who is supposed to be caring for your parent is abusing him/her instead? The Beverly elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices explain what to do when a family member commits elder abuse.
Elder Law Facts and Figures
Most people are aware that elder abuse and neglect occur in the U.S.; however, the average person is not aware of how often they occur. Gathering precise facts and figures relating to elder abuse and neglect is challenging for several reasons. First, because most states have only recently enacted specific laws relating to elder abuse, uniform reporting requirements are not yet in place. In addition, many seniors do not report abuse or neglect because they are embarrassed or ashamed to be victims. Incidences of abuse also go unreported because many elderly victims remain dependent on their abusers for basic necessities. Despite the difficulties involved in compiling accurate data, experts have published some facts and figures relating to elder abuse and neglect, including:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reported as many as 14 go unreported.
- 90 percent of the perpetrators are family members
- Two-thirds of the time it is an adult child or spouse of an adult child who commits elder abuse.
What Can You Do If You Suspect Abuse?
You may find yourself in a particularly uncomfortable situation if you begin to suspect that your parent is being abused and the potential perpetrator is a family member. If you are wrong, your accusations could cause a rift in the family for many years to come. If you are right, however, that might cause an even bigger conflict within the family. If your gut instinct sends off alarm bells you need to listen because your parent could be in serious danger. The following steps should either confirm or alleviate your suspicions.
- Talk to your parent. If your parent is capable of discussing the issue, sit down and do so. He/she may be reluctant to open up initially. Still, after you explain your concerns and tell you how often elder abuse happens, your parent might be more likely to confide in you if he/she really is being abused or neglected.
- Install a nanny cam. An increasingly popular option is to install a hidden “nanny cam” to try and catch the abuse on video. Although it may not be admissible in court, it can help confirm – or alleviate – your suspicions.
- Report your suspicions. If you are convinced the abuse or neglect is real, report your suspicions to the proper law enforcement authorities so there is a written report on file.
- Consult an elder law attorney. Consulting with an experienced elder law attorney is important because you may need to take legal steps to get your parent out of the situation he/she is in at the moment. For example, you may need to petition to become your parent’s legal Guardian.
Contact Beverly Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about what to do if you suspect a family member of elder abuse, contact the experienced Beverly elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.