Within the last two decades, most states, including the state of Florida, have made great strides to protect the dignity, health, wellness, and financial wellbeing of vulnerable adults from physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The sad truth is that elder abuse is a genuine problem that is, unfortunately, growing in scope and scale. That is why it is imperative to contact an elder abuse lawyer to navigate new laws that have been created to protect these vulnerable adults. In many states, these laws allow civil litigation against individuals who seek to exploit the elderly, including financial advisors.
Elder Abuse Laws
In the state of Florida, Chapter 825, known as Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Elderly Persons and Disabled Adults was established to protect these vulnerable adults. The law was created to prevent people in positions of trust and confidence with elderly or disabled adults or who have business relationships with those adults from abusing them. It establishes civil and criminal avenues for victims to seek justice.
As of 2020, Florida ranked number two in the nation for the highest population percentage of elderly people (defined as those aged 65 and over). Florida was surpassed only by Maine. However, when it comes to numbers alone, Florida is only surpassed by California for the number of residents aged 65 and over and California has nearly double the total population of Florida (as of 2020). This makes protecting the elderly residents of Florida an imperative.
What Is Elder Abuse?
The National Council on Aging breaks elder abuse down into seven categories:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Willful deprivation
- Financial abuse and/or exploitation
What is truly traumatic about elder abuse is that if often comes at the hands of family. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all elder abuse incidents are carried out by family members. Of those, nearly two-thirds are either adult children or spouses of the victims.
Other instances of elder abuse are at the hands of trusted financial advisors, hired caregivers, and elder-care facility staff and administrators. The Department of Justice reports that at least one in ten people aged 65 and over are victims of elder abuse. The number is likely much higher as it also states that elder abuse is massively underreported, especially in the areas of:
- Caregiver neglect
- Financial exploitation
- Physical abuse
- Psychological abuse
While no one wants to contemplate the idea of elder abuse of a loved one, it’s important to be watchful for various signs and indications this may be happening and to decide when it is time to consult an elder abuse lawyer about your situation.
Symptoms of Elder Abuse
It isn’t always immediately obvious when someone is the victim of elder abuse. However, there are indications that closer scrutiny is warranted. This includes the following signs and symptoms.
- Cuts, bruises, and abrasions.
- Broken bones.
- Restraint marks or rope burns.
- Sprains and dislocations.
- Poor hygiene.
- Unkempt living conditions.
- Disrepair in the home.
- Loss of essential services such as gas, electricity, or water.
- Lack of medical aids or access to medications.
- Medication overdoses.
- Social isolation or withdrawal.
- Caregiver preventing or limiting visitors.
- Caregiver aggression toward patient.
- Missing money from accounts.
- Unusual spending habits.
- Past due and foreclosure notices.
This is hardly an exhaustive list. Unfortunately, isolated instances on the list could be the result of normal daily activities. It is when patterns emerge that loved ones must take a second look.
Protect Loved Ones with an Elder Abuse Lawyer
Within the state of Florida, it is simple to report suspected elder abuse to Adult Protective Services. You can report online by visiting https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/ or calling 1-800-962-2873. Once you’ve made your report, the Department of Children and Families will conduct an investigation to not only determine if there is evidence of abuse and/or exploitation, but also what steps the state can take to protect the health and safety of your loved one. This includes face-to-fact contact with your loved one within 24 hours of the report.
Additional things you can do include the following:
- Remain involved in the lives and affairs of your loved ones.
- Visit often and look for inconsistencies in care.
- Work with your loved one to keep his or her financial affairs in order.
- Keep in touch with other family members and work together to ensure your loved one’s safety.
- Immediately report suspected fraud, elder abuse, and other concerns you may have to the appropriate authorities.
Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to a competent and qualified elder abuse lawyer, like the attorneys at The Schwartz Law Firm to help you hold responsible parties responsible for their mistreatment and abuse of your loved one.