I receive lots of inquiries about elder abuse from people who have read my previous blogs and visited my website. Most of the contacts are from folks who believe that their elderly relatives have been either physically or financially abused by strangers or relatives. Since I don’t practice any kind of law other than criminal defense I’m not able to help. If someone is accused of abusing an elder than I have the experience to assist in his or her defense. So, in an effort to assist those not accused of elder abuse I would advise the following to prevent being accused and to prevent the abuse in the first place.
Financial abuse is usually associated with the alleged misuse of monies and property owned by the elderly. If you are in a caretaker position it is vitally important to keep a careful accounting of all monies spent out of the elder’s accounts or from cash kept by the elder. With a clear and concise accounting of any money spent on behalf of the elder, the caretaker is going to be able to defend against the unwarranted accusation of misuse by the family, friends, or government agency who investigates. Failure to keep good financial records can lead to an inability to defend oneself effectively against claims of abuse.
When it comes to physical abuse, the caretaker usually gets into trouble when the elder suffers some physical setback. When family, friends, or the government examine a case for physical abuse it’s always looking in the “rear view mirror”. The accusations of “you should have done this or recognized that earlier” come cascading down on the caretaker regardless of validity. The elder is often difficult to manage physically and emotionally for the caretaker. The elderly don’t like to be told what they can and can’t do and to be required to be washed or moved when they don’t want to be moved. Sometimes there are physical limitations that come on gradually that lead the caretaker to be overwhelmed. The caretaker might fear loss of employment if the family is required to intervene or the senior moved out of the caretaker’s zone of responsibility.
The caretaker must look at the health of the senior as the overriding factor in all decisions in order to be relieved of allegations of misconduct and potential criminal liability. Advice must be sought from assistance agencies, families and even the Department of Social Services if there is any issue of inability to cope by the caretaker. A diary of actions taken by the caretaker can assist in defending against such accusations. Much like the financial accounting, a diary or log kept by the caretaker can document requests for assistance and actions taken to prevent physical deterioration of the elder.
The lesson to be learned is that the caretaker is accountable for his actions because the elder is often unable to help him or herself. The caretaker has to be proactive in preparing to defend himself from accusations of misconduct by keeping careful records of his actions taken either financially or physically. When those records are maintained the caretaker protects himself and the senior.