Protections for an Aging Population
As an estate planning attorney, I help families write out their end of life wishes on a daily basis.
While these procedures are generally less complicated than people imagine, there are always precautions that lawyers and families must take to ensure that the estate documents reflect the actual desire of the client. This includes looking for the signs of elder abuse and neglect— a potential factor that leads to undue influence.
As such, we must have a keen understanding about what these actions entail in order to protect our elders from harm and potential coercion. Learn more about what to look for in the article below.
Signs and Types of Elder abuse
When discussing elder abuse, we automatically enter murky waters. For many individuals, a decline in cognitive function creates the perfect landscape to cover the signs of elder abuse as normal signs of aging. This includes physical pain and impairment, falls, and even broken bones. The challenge only grows when we begin to understand that people in positions of trust (such as family members and caregivers) are most likely to be the same people inflicting the abuse.
The first category of abuse is physical. This can include anything done by way of neglect, improper use of restraints and equipment, unnecessary use of physical force, beatings, and even sexual abuse.
Some signs of physical abuse may include social isolation, withdrawal, anxiousness, and more overt indicators such as bruising and bleeding.
Emotional and Psychological Abuse
A common misconception across the board is that emotional abuse is less severe than physical abuse. While the signs of emotional abuse are far more covert, this does not downplay its impact on an older person.
While this is true for all populations, elders are particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse as they are often reliant upon others for aid. Furthermore, the environment in an assisted living community or nursing home might result in higher levels of isolation, making the elderly more willing to trust individuals who give them connection and interaction— even if that person has malicious intent.
Emotional and psychological abuse is a broad category but ultimately includes actions such as intimidation, humiliation, gaslighting, scapegoating, and verbal assaults. When taken together, this can cause an elder to be refused help as their changes in demeanor and accusations may be blamed on an existing condition rather than the presence of an abusive caregiver in their lives.
Unfortunately, when an older adult is being manipulated, it not only places them personally at risk, but their finances as well. In fact, financial abuse is often an end-goal the other forms of abuse strive to accomplish.
Unfortunately, financial abuse is the ultimate challenge to spot as it is often done as quickly and quietly as possible, taking the shape of both scams and manipulations of financial paperwork.
Of the many ways finances can be targeted, we see the elderly being particularly vulnerable to identity theft, scams, and coercion into changing important financial documentation. In cases where trusted individuals or caregivers are involved in the abuse, there is also the potential risk for forged signatures, compromised bank accounts, and even changes in estate planning documents.
While you can watch for changes in financial condition, many of these changes go unnoticed until it is too late to do anything about them. In fact, many individuals only find out about suspicious transactions and financial exploitation once their family member has passed on and they are left with an altered will.
Out of all the categories, financial abuse is one which estate planning attorneys watch for the most. Thisi is because in cases where documents were changed without the true consent of the testator– the writer of the will– it opens up a battleground for litigation.
An Experienced Arizona Estate Planning Attorney
Early estate planning is an important safeguard for your family and has the potential to be a simple process with the aid of an experienced Arizona attorney. With over 21 years of experience in the field, I can help you understand the estate planning process while we draft your documents– all in plain English and simplified terms. For a consultation on your case, contact us at (602) 996-4076 or [email protected]