ELDER LAW – WHAT IS IT?
Elder Law is a specialized area of law focusing on issues affecting those over the age of 65.
Topics covered by elder law include issues such as long term care planning, Medicaid eligibility, tax implications of asset transfers, structural changes to a residence to make it safe for elderly residents, elder housing, elder abuse and end-of-life issues.
These elder law issues, and many more, will increase over the coming decades because 10,000 individuals turn 65 years old each and every day. The one issue which is rising faster than all of the others is elder abuse.
WHAT IS ELDER ABUSE?
Elder law abuse can be a single act, or multiple acts, or the lack of any action, which occurs in a relationship where the elderly person has an expectation of trust, and which act, multiple act or lack of action causes harm or distress to that elderly person.
Elder abuse can take many forms, including:
- Physical Abuse—inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
- Sexual Abuse—non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Neglect—the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Exploitation—the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
- Emotional Abuse—inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
- Abandonment—desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
- Self-neglect—characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.
WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS OF ELDER ABUSE?
Although not conclusive, some signs that there could be a problem include:
- involuntary seclusion
- threats of punishment
- hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, any type of corporal punishment
- sexual assault, sexual coercion, sexual harassment
- verbal abuse, or any oral, written, or gestured language that includes disparaging or derogatory terms, regardless of the person’s ability to hear or comprehend.
Elder abuse also includes the failure of a caretaker to provide the goods or services, including medical services, which are necessary to avoid physical or emotional harm or pain to the senior.
Elder abuse often includes financial exploitation of a senior.
Examples of financial exploitation include the illegal use by a caretaker of a senior’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain.
Seniors may need help with their finances, but unless they hand control over to another person, they have the same right as anyone else to receive, spend, invest, save or give away their money.
A family member, “friend” or nursing home may not take control of a senior’s money without that person’s permission.
The most important technique to identify elder law abuse is to be alert. The senior often suffers in silence.
If you notice negative changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, such as silence where the senior used to be talkative and outgoing, you should start to question what is going on.
WHAT DO TO IF ELDER ABUSE IS SUSPECTED
If the senior is in immediate danger, alert the authorities by dialing 9-1-1. If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is continuing to occur, tell someone.
To report elder abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services agency in the state where the elder resides. In fact, you are required by Texas law to report it.
When you make the call, you should be prepared to provide the following information to the Adult Protective Services agency:
- the elder’s name, address, contact information, and details about why you are concerned.
- Are there any known medical problems (including confusion or memory loss)?
- What kinds of family or social supports are there?
- Have you seen or heard incidents of yelling, hitting, or other abusive behavior?
You should also be prepared to give your name, relationship to the senior, address, and telephone number. However, many states will take a report from an anonymous caller.
WHO DO I CONTACT TO REPORT SUSPECTED ELDER ABUSE?
If the victim is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or is in his or her home and relies on a home health provider, call the Texas Department of State Health Services at (800) 458-9858.
If the victim is a resident of a long-term care facility that receives Medicaid funding, report the criminal abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at (512) 463-2011 (Austin), toll-free at (800) 252-8011 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abuse of a senior who is not in a health care facility can be reported to Adult Protective Services at (800) 252-5400.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER ELDER ABUSE IS REPORTED?
The agency screens the calls it receives for potential seriousness. All information it receives is kept confidential.
If a decision is made by the agency that the information provided indicates that a state elder abuse law has been violated, a caseworker will be assigned to conduct an investigation.
Where needed, a victim will be provided with crisis intervention services. If the investigation reveals that elder abuse has not or is not occurring, but the senior needs social and/or health services, the agency often works with other community agencies to provide the needed services.
Contact Rath Law Katy on 281 772 9585