Identifying Elder Exploitation Before It’s Too Late
At the intersection of aging and healthcare, there are many ways a senior can be subjected to abuse or exploitation, right in their own home or community. At the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A., we look for creative ways to protect seniors from abuse, whether through careful estate planning or through litigation. Here are some tips for identifying abuse before it’s too late.
Get to Know Mental Competence
The concept of mental competence or “legal capacity” is often elusive and confusing, even for attorneys. If you have an aging loved one who has been diagnosed with a medical condition that affects cognitive abilities, you should educate yourself on the nuances of the disease or condition. Some common conditions include:
- Dementia (including Alzheimer’s)
- Brain injury
Once you understand how the applicable disease or condition affects your loved one, you can better understand potential threats.
Common Forms of Abuse
Elder abuse isn’t always as obvious as you might expect. In fact, most of the time, abuse takes the form of financial exploitation or subtle coercion. Consider these typical ways that seniors can be abused.
- The friendly neighbor. In this common scenario, a neighbor or home health caregiver becomes very friendly and close. Over time, the elderly loved one begins making sweeping changes to wills, powers of attorney, and other documents, giving the friendly neighbor access to bank accounts, trusts, and other important assets. This insidious form of exploitation can happen very quickly. Fortunately, Maryland law generally prohibits caregivers and other healthcare providers from acting as agents under a power of attorney. This is because it would create a conflict of interests.
- The Helpful Contractor. Sometimes a senior will be convinced to make home repairs by a kind and courteous local contractor. If your aging loved one begins making unannounced home repairs, such as upgrades, roofing improvements, and other major work on the home, you should inquire about who is doing the work and why. It may be perfectly reasonable, but in a lot of cases, contractors convince seniors that their home will be destroyed if they don’t authorize and pay for expensive cash repairs.
- Jimmy in the Basement. He has many names, but the adult child who never quite grew up and left the nest can present a problem. Perhaps one of your siblings is still living with your aging parent. If this person begins driving your parent’s vehicle, using their funds for personal living expenses, and using your aging loved one’s assets for personal use, this can be a form of financial abuse. The best solution is a guardianship. But this may not always be easy, especially if your loved one does not believe there’s a problem.
How to Talk to a Loved One
Many times a senior may have put a lot of energy and money into building a solid plan, only to attempt to undo it later in life at a point where he or she may not appreciate the effect of their actions. If so, you should immediately contact the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. in Maryland. We may be able to help obtain legal authority to protect your aging loved one.