You may think that elder abuse only happens to people who are living in substandard nursing homes and are too senile to know the difference. You might assume that most abusers of the elderly are strangers, not family. Actually, those are two of the common myths about elder abuse.
In fact, most abused seniors suffer their harm at the hands of people close to them, such as relatives, caregivers, and other trusted people. Most of the abuse happens in the home, not in nursing homes. While it is true that some mistreatment of the elderly occurs in nursing homes and at the hands of strangers, the majority does not.
Myth #1 – Smart, Well-Educated Seniors Do Not Fall For Scams
This is another myth. Scammers know better than to use scams that prey upon their intended victim’s intelligence or education when going after the elderly. Instead, rip-off artists target the family of the senior. The older person gets a phone call that her grandson is in legal trouble or needs emergency surgery in another country. She is directed to wire thousands of dollars to help her grandson. In a panic, she sends the money, only to later realize it was a swindle.
Myth #2 – The Courts Will Not Do Anything About Elder Abuse
Not true. California has specific laws that prohibit abuse of the elderly. Physical or mental abuse of the elderly can result in fines of up to $6,000 and imprisonment for up to four years. California law provides for additional years in prison if the senior adult suffers great bodily harm or dies from the abuse. Financial abuse of the elderly is punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to four years.
Myth #3 – Since Many Older Adults Are Poor, Financial Abuse Of Them Is A Small Matter
It may be tempting to think that financial abuse of the elderly is a minor issue because so many seniors have limited income and dwindling assets. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the AARP, senior Americans report $3 billion a year of financial abuse and extortion. The AARP posits that the actual numbers are much higher, as many elderly do not report being the victims of financial abuse.
Aging adults may be afraid to report abuse if the abuser is a family member or other caregiver. The senior may fear retaliation if she blows the whistle. When a senior is in the vulnerable position of being dependent upon someone for food, daily assistance or a place to live, she may feel disempowered. Some abusers threaten to put their victims into a nursing home if they complain about their treatment.
What To Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse In California
You should report suspected elder abuse right away. If you are a caregiver of an aging adult in California, whether you receive payment or not, you are a mandated reporter. You must report actual or suspected elder abuse by telephone and file a written report within two business days. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, contact your county’s Adult Protective Services office or your local law enforcement.
If you suspect that an elderly person in your life is being abused, get them to safety and contact J&Y Law today for a free consultation.