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Author: Michael Ehline - Elder Law Attorney

Forms of Elder Abuse – Exhaustive List

Caring nurse holding kind elderly lady's hands in bed.
Caring nurse holding kind elderly lady’s hands in bed.

Abuse of the elderly is a problem that is growing. We don’t know why it happens or how to stop the spread of this kind of behavior. But we do know there is assistance available for the victim of elder abuse. We have attempted here to create an exhaustive list of elderly abuse in its many forms.

For list of the more common types go here. One of the things that can be done is for the concerned person, to know the warning signs. That way, if a possible problem exists, people can call for help.

Physical Abuse Defined

The definition of physical abuse is the use of force, which can result in bodily injury, impairment or physical pain. This type of abuse can include acts of violence, such as hitting, slapping, pinching, striking. And this could be with or without using an object.

For example, pushing, shoving, shaking, beating, kicking and burning could be the method. But this is not limited to these uses of force. There can also be the inappropriate use of physical restraints; force feeding, use of drugs, and any type of physical punishment. All are also physical abuse.

What Are Some Physical Abuse Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse?

These are the most exhaustive results of physical abuse, but are not limited to these signs or symptoms.

  • A report by an elderly person of being mistreated, hit, slapped, or kicked.
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow the elderly person to be seen by visitors alone.
  • Sudden changes in the elderly person’s behavior.
  • Physical signs of being subjected to punishment.
  • Signs of being restrained, such as wrist and ankle bruising, lacerations, or red marks. There may be signs of lack of proper circulation to the heels.
  • Broken eyeglass frames.
  • Unexplained or frequent bruising, lacerations and welts.
  • Sprains and dislocations.
  • Fractured bones, broken bones and skull fractures.
  • Open wounds, cuts and punctures.
  • Signs of untreated wounds in various stages of healing.
  • Rope burns.
  • Internal injuries and bleeding.
  • Under use of prescribed drugs.
  • Laboratory findings of medication overdoses.

Sexual Abuse of Dependents

Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse, which is the act of non-consensual contact of any type with an elderly adult. This can be sexual contact with anyone, who is not capable of giving consent.

Sexual abuse is not limited to unwanted touching. So this includes all types of sexual assault, battery, including rape, sodomy, sexually explicit photographing, and coerced nudity.

Sexual Abuse Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • The report by an elderly person of being sexually assaulted or raped.
  • Bruising around the breasts or genital area.
  • Stained, torn or bloody underclothing.
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding.
  • Genital infections
  • Venereal disease

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

The definition of emotional or psychological abuse is the infliction of pain, distress or anguish by verbal or non-verbal acts. This type of abuse includes verbal assaults, insults, intimidation, humiliation, harassment and threats. But it is not limited to these.

Isolating an elderly person from his or her family or activities, or giving them the “silent treatment.” These are all forms of forced social isolation. Hence, they are forms of emotional or psychological abuse. Threatening an elderly person can be equated to threatening an infant. After all, they are dependent on the healthcare provider or nursing home staff.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse Signs and Symptoms

These are common signs and symptoms of emotional or psychological abuse, but are not limited to these.

  • Reports by the elderly person of being verbally or emotionally mistreated.
  • Behavior of being extremely withdrawn.
  • Non-communicative
  • Non-responsive
  • Unusual behavior, which could be attributed as signs of dementia, but are not in reality, including rocking, sucking and biting.

More Signs Of Elderly Neglect

Neglect can take several forms, generally the refusal of providing the elderly adult with necessities, such as shelter, food, water, personal hygiene, personal safety, medicine, comfort and other essentials, which are agreed upon or implied in the responsibility to an elderly person.

Neglect can be the failure or refusal in any way of a person or staff members obligated duties to the elderly person. It can also be a failure on the part of a person, who has fiduciary responsibilities. So it’s a failure to provide care for the elderly person, which means not paying for necessary home care services or long term care facility costs. This can also be a failure of an in-home service provider, to provide the necessary car required.

What are Some Signs and Symptoms of Neglect?

There are common signs and symptoms of neglect, but it is not limited to these:

  • Reports of neglect by the elderly adult.
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Lack of personal hygiene.
  • Untreated or unattended health issues.
  • Untreated bed sores and other wounds.
  • Unsafe or hazardous living conditions or arrangements. Unsafe living conditions can include no running water, no heat and improper wiring.
  • Unsanitary or Unclean living conditions. This can include dirty living conditions; urine/ fecal odor, inadequate clothing or soiled clothing, soiled bedding, fleas and lice.

What is Abandonment?

The definition of elderly abandonment abuse, is the desertion of an older adult, by the individual who has assumed the responsibility of caring for them, or by an individual, who has physical custody of the elderly person.

Abandonment – Signs and Symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of abandonment can include the following, but are not limited to them:

  • A report by the elderly person that they have been abandoned.
  • Desertion of an elderly person at any of the following:
  1. Shopping centers
  2. Public locations
  3. Hospitals
  4. Nursing facilities
  5. Long term healthcare facilities
  6. The desertion of the elderly adult at any other locations.

What is Financial or Material Exploitation?

The definition of financial or material exploitation is the improper or illegal use of an elderly persons funds, assets or property, by an individual. This can be the cashing of the elderly persons checks, without permission or authorization. It could include forging their signature, stealing or misusing their possessions or money.

Deceiving or coercing an older adult to sign documents, contacts or wills is part of it. But is can also include the improper use of guardianship, power of attorney or conservator-ship.

Signs and Symptoms of Financial or Material Exploitation?

These are common signs and symptoms of financial or material exploitation of an elderly person. But these are not limited to these:

  • Reports of financial exploitation by an elderly person.
  • Providing services that are not necessary and financially costly.
  • Unpaid bills, even when there is adequate availability of financial resources.
  • The appearance of relatives, who have not been involved with the older adult or their care, suddenly claiming their rights to the elderly person’s affairs and possessions.
  • Additional names being included on an older adult’s bank signature card.
  • Sudden changes in banking practices or bank accounts. This can mean the withdrawal of large sums of money by an individual and may be accompanied by the elderly adult.
  • Sudden transfers of assets to a family member or someone that is not related to the elderly adult.
  • Sudden changes in financial documents or wills.
  • Forgery of the elderly person’s signature for financial transactions or for titles of his or her possessions.
  • Withdrawals using the elderly person’s ATM cards to remove their funds.
  • Disappearance of funds or possessions that are unexplained.

Self Neglect

This type of self inflicted harm can occur and is not so easily spotted unless the care provider is on top of their game. This occurs when an elderly person’s behavior becomes a threat to his or her safety. This normally happens with an older adult, who refuses or fails to provide themselves with shelter, adequate food, water, clothing. Often, personal hygiene or prescribed medications, as well as practicing safety precautions are at risk.

Self neglect does not include situations where the older adult is mentally competent. It means they must have a complete understanding of the consequences of their decisions. This is a conscious or voluntary decision to act in way that could threaten his or her health or safety and is a choice. So it means they know, rather than not being aware of the consequences their actions could bring.

What are Some Signs and Symptoms of Self Neglect?

The common signs and symptoms of self neglect can include the following, but are not limited to:

  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Improper or untreated medical conditions.
  • Lack of proper personal hygiene.
  • Living in unclean or unsanitary conditions. This can include insect infestations, urine or fecal odor, non functioning toilet, and animal waste.
  • Unsafe or hazardous living conditions or arrangements. This includes having no running water, indoor plumbing, no heat or improper wiring.
  • Living in grossly inadequate housing.
  • Being homeless.

Above are the many signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect. If you have seen this in a person under care, or elderly, do the right thing. Report this to law enforcement and help the victim get an elder abuse attorney.

Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC

633 West 5th St #2890
Los Angeles, CA
90071 United States
(213) 596-9642
Elderly Abuse, Nursing Care Abuse, Nursing Ethics

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The Growing Problem of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse is a growing problem. To illustrate this, at least two recent studies show how prevalent this treatment of elderly adults is. Nursing home abuse is a growing problem. To prove this, at least two recent studies illustrate how prevalent this treatment of older adults is. One of the studies included both elderly citizens and nursing home staff. Even some nursing home staff members had seen elderly abuse by other staff members.

The Recent Case Studies

The National Center for the Protection of Older People at the University College Dublin found in their research that over one in four employees had witnessed psychological abuse. This kind of ill-treatment includes treatment such as shouting, swearing or insulting the elderly resident at a nursing home. And this is heinous enough, but to make elderly nursing home abuse even worse, one in eight employees had witnessed physical abuse of residents. So this involves pushing, shoving, pinching, grabbing or unnecessary restraint of residents.

Theft by Caretakers

This was an in-depth study, involving over 1300 nurses and healthcare assistants from 64 nursing homes. The data from the research showed that physical and mental abuse were not the only crimes. There is also the fact that 1.2 percent of staff members have been seen by other employees taking valuables from residents.

Gullibility of Seniors

Many a nursing abuse law firm has argued in court that elders are susceptible to being scammed. At least one recent study that was conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, supports this argument. It focused on the brain of the elderly and found significant differences in the major areas, compared to those in the study who were younger. The study used participants from a senior living center between the ages of 55 and 84, and then they used staff members and students between the ages of 20 and 42.

They found that when showing the two groups a series of photographs, with individuals who appeared trustworthy and then others where the individuals had a shifty appearance, there was a large difference in reactions in the brain. The younger participants were able to quickly identify the people in the photos who should not be trusted, while the elderly group of members did not have the same reaction.

“Gut Reaction” Response Seems to Disappear in Elder Brains

Further, testing using an MRI showed that the part of the brain known as the anterior insula in older participants lacked activity, wherein the younger participants there was a flurry of activity. The anterior insula is the part of the brain that “gut reactions” come from, which make a person feel ill-at-ease or stressed, pick up behaviors, and helps in making difficult decisions.

This lack of activity, researchers determined, makes it difficult for the elderly citizen to get on the appearance, behavior or signals when being scammed. This puts them at risk that can cost them their life savings or even bring them in physical danger. These are only two of the recent studies concerning nursing home abuse. They show possible reasons that nursing home abuse occurs so often.

Recent Cases of Abuse

Recently, two nurses were held responsible for felony elder abuse of a nursing home resident who succumbed to the lack of proper care. One of the staff involved was a registered nurse and director of nursing at the El Dorado Care Center, where the events of elder abuse took place. When the resident was taken to the hospital, they documented injuries, other than the reason for being admitted to the hospital, which included bruises and a wound on her pinky finger.

The nursing home owner, Horizon West Healthcare Inc., when held accountable, settled the claim for $3 million and then sold 27 nursing homes it owned. In civil court, the husband of the elder abuse victim, as a part of his lawsuit, claimed the nursing home was understaffed to maximize profits.

The Unreported Abuse

These nursing home employees were held accountable. However, there are thousands of cases of nursing home abuse, with what is believed to be approximately half or more never reported to authorities. This is because in most cases, the nursing home resident feels defenseless.

They do not believe they have an avenue to stop the mistreatment and live in fear of the abuse, which is what the nursing home staff member, who does not provide the proper care to the resident, counts on. Often the elder abuse only comes to light because of the family members who recognize the signs and go to the authorities and an elder abuse lawyer.

Big Cities and Elder Abuse Concerns

Elder abuse senior woman being shouted at by nurse
Elder abuse concept with a senior woman in a wheelchair crying and covering her ears as a middle age nurse or other health care worker is yelling at her.

In New York City, like Los Angeles, and other cities nationwide, whether it is in the form of emotional mistreatment, physical harm, or financial scams, civil advocates for aging people who claim and file the cases of elder abuse (learn more), far outweigh the public resources available to fight it.

What are Some Facts About the Abuse?

After Hurricane Sandy, it only took a short time, before Jeanne Zieff, a Staten Island, the social worker began seeing the fallout. Before Thanksgiving, Zieff counseled an 88-year old woman, who had recently received an $8,000 FEMA check for storm damage.

And her daughter and adult grandchildren living with her, demanded she hand over the check to them. Counseling another client, Zieff heard about a granddaughter who had taken a room in the woman’s house. And that was when her basement apartment was flooded and refused to leave.

What is the New York Elder Abuse Program?

Five non-profit agencies run city-funded elder abuse programs. Zieff is the elder abuse program coordinator for the Community Agency for Senior Citizens. Zieff said she discussed the situation with the 88-year-old woman and said explain to her she has the right to say “no.” She said that it is the woman’s money and Zieff said they did a lot of role-playing.

And she told the woman, if anyone asks her for money, to call her first. The Staten Island social worker then visited the woman’s New Dorp Beach home, where she said they were not happy to see her. She said, she told the woman’s daughter.  And as Zieff put it, the FEMA check was made out to her mother. Last, her mother can do with the money what she wants.

Over Working The Civil Servant

According to Zeiff, whether there is a storm or not, her and several coworkers are working on approximately 30 cases of elder abuse. She said that their program is the only program in Staten Island that is dedicated to assisting abused senior citizens. The social workers run into cases of physical neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, domestic violence, along with verbal and emotional mistreatment.

Even with the groups and agencies uniting to raise awareness of the increasing elder abuse problem and developing strategies to battle it, they are at risk. The funding for these programs was recently subject to cuts, even though they were once assured to be included in the city budget. They are now faced with yearly campaigns to renew their contracts. One agency director said this means operating for months at a time, without the help of city money. We have all heard the stories of attorneys being forced to hire their court reporters, and the shortened work weeks of the public employees of Los Angeles County, and the State of California. It is no different in the State of NY either, says nursing abuse lawyer, Michael P. Ehline, Esq.

Under Funding of Senior Centers

The director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services, Bobbie Sackman, said that the programs now receive a total of $800,000 a year in discretionary City Council funding, for approximately 300 senior centers in five boroughs. They are seriously under-resourced when looking at the size of the area that must be covered and the intensity of the cases, Sackman said.

The Crisis that is Under Reported

Social workers are operating with small staffs and modest funding while facing rising caseloads. The social workers are conducting intensive case work, where in some instances, it means listening for hours in counseling sessions, making daily home visits, accompanying clients to court hearings, to the bank and staying in touch with other agencies, like the Adult Protective Services or NYPD. They also hold outreach sessions for senior centers, first responders, police precincts, religious organizations, hospitals, bank tellers and others to provide education in the signs of elder abuse and how to get help or make referrals.

Elderly Abuse a Public Epidemic?

Sackman says these are the professionally trained workforce, which are the eyes and ears for the city’s elder abuse problem. They can work with the emotional area and the practical side skillfully. This is the way to support the elderly and obtain the help they need. The director of elder abuse and police relations unit at the Carter Burden Center for the Aging on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Ken Onaitis, said one coworker and he covers half of Manhattan. He said they manage between 40 and 50 ongoing cases and take on approximately 15 new cases every month. According to those who work with senior citizens claim that Elder abuse is a hidden public health crisis. They say there is no class or ethnic group that is immune to this type of abuse.

Unreported Cases

Zieff says that this is one of the most under-reported crimes, in which approximately ninety percent of the time, it is the senior’s children who commit the crime. She said when it is your child committing the crime; it involves many issues. She said the first is denial and then the older adult does not want to say their child is stealing from them. There is the feeling of embarrassment, and the urge to protect them.

In New York state in 2010 there was a study conducted on the prevalence of elder abuse carried out in part by the city’s Department for the Aging, which determined that for every elder abuse case known to the elder abuse service system, there are believed to be as many as 24 cases that go unreported.

In New York City, approximately nine percent of the residents are age 60 or older, which equals about 120,000 seniors, who experience some form of elder abuse, within a year period. The study found that older seniors suffered a higher rate of elder abuse at approximately 14 percent.

Likely To Increase

The number of abuse incidents is likely to rise, with the aging population living longer and the baby boomers joining the ranks of seniors. In the city, there are almost a million New Yorkers, which is approximately 12% of the population, who are 65 or older, with approximately 900,000 that will join that age bracket, within the next decade, from the 2010 census data.

Seniors – Children as Perpetrators?

According to experts the most common form of mistreatment is financial exploitation, which has only increased with the weak economy. In 2009, the case of philanthropist Brooke Astor was in the headlines, when her son was convicted of financial elder abuse of her $200 million dollar fortune and did not provide her with adequate medical or general care.

Elder abuse workers claim they often see seniors whose children are taking their monthly social security checks or are making extra money while using the parent’s ATM card.

Evelyn Laureano, executive director of the Neighborhood Self-Help by Older Persons Project (SHOPP), in the Bronx, a city-funded elder abuse program, said seniors that often come forward to seek help. But many are not doing it because of the abuse, but rather a symptom of it. For example, a utility shut off notice or an impending eviction. Laureano said that the case workers are trained to look for the reason that a senior receiving $1,200 a month cannot pay their $500 rent payment.

The elder program employees see a range of elder abuse cases and say it is as complicated as “any family and as diverse as New York, itself.” They stated that “typical” cases can vary by the borough, as well. According to Onaitis, historically people have been attracted to Manhattan, from all over the country. And many have settled independently as adults. Many were single all their lives, with few friends or family outside of the area. These seniors will often find a roommate to help cut expenses. And when the situation turns bad, the roommate will not leave, he said.

Beware the “New Best Friend”

Another situation is the “new best friend,” which is a person who will initially offer care, but then either absconds with money or becomes abusive. This is a dynamic that is often seen in many of the elder abuse cases, where the senior believes the abuser is the only thing keeping them from going to a nursing home or is dependent on the abuser for some care, according to case managers.

Educating Victims to Refuse to go along with Mistreatment

Laureano said that often the alleged abusers are the adult children of the senior, who have a dependent relationship on their elderly parents. Whatever the reason is, whether it is the son that is recently divorced, has a substance abuse problem, is homeless or lost his job, forcing him to move home and the elderly parent is the only one with an income.

There are other cases where mental illness is involved. for example, the adult child that completes a short-term stay in a psychiatric hospital, and they are discharged to their mother, and the mother is 89 years old, Laureano said in describing situations, where the fragile elderly individual has wanted protection from the child’s violent temper.

The Various Examples are Sad

Domestic violence is another issue, which involves a partner, and takes all forms. One example is Bronx resident Carolyn Vonwhervin, who had been married to her husband for 41 years. As she described it, his behavior changed, for the worse two years ago.

The man that she had been married for all these years was “very kind” she said, and with this change he began shouting accusations, using profanity using very nasty words and having tirades. Vonwhervin said it would come out of the blue and she had no idea where it was coming from. Her husband was frustrated one day because he could not find something he was looking for and punched her in the stomach.

Carolyn Vonwhervin said she felt like a lost person, and that nothing like this had ever happened to her before. Vonwhervin found SHOPP’s elder abuse Violence Intervention and Prevention program. He does so through referrals where the social worker and program director Nereida Muñiz, assisted her in developing a safety plan.

The plan was a borrowed strategy from the domestic violence programs. This also included having a plan of where to go if her husband became violent and called 911.

Muñiz accompanied Vonwhervin to family court to obtain an order of protection and discussed finding safe housing, which was ultimate with her granddaughter. Vonwhervin’s husband was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, prostate cancer, and dementia. Once on medication, his demeanor calmed down, and she was able to return home to care for him. But she needed the help of a home health aide, until his death this month.

Eslyn Rawlings, age 71 is another person that Muñiz recently began working with, who called 311. Rawlings said she had a bad day with her husband and is now receiving help for verbal and emotional abuse that she says went on for over 30 years. Her husband has made no comment about the violence. Rawlings said this is the first time she has spoken openly about her marriage and is delighted she is receiving help. She said that the “Lord” provided someone to listen to her, and she doesn’t feel alone.

Elder Isolation and Why it Hurts So Bad?

According to Zieff, the words of these women, the abuse is very isolating. Social workers in these programs use supportive counseling and listen, but place a priority on physical safety; they say they work from what they refer to as “strengths perspective.” Onaitis stated that clients are asked to examine what is good in their lives, what problems they are having and how they handle the situation, and then they are wondered how they handled these cases in the past.

They work on building self-esteem, not just calling the police and having the abuser taken out. So then they can come right back in the door, he said. A large part of what these agencies provide is practical assistance. Social worker Muñiz stated in the Bronx; she has been able to have senior’s bank accounts restored by the bank when they have reviewed the ATM camera footage. Often they have seen it was not the account holder, who is an old customer making the withdrawals.

There is a citywide push to combat and the prevention of elder abuse. Several non-profit and government organizations in 2009, formed the New York City Elder Abuse Center, which is a network that responds and works in partnership in complex elder abuse cases, with expertise.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office, in 2010 restructured its elder abuse unit, which now says it prosecutes approximately 700 elder abuse cases every year. The district attorney’s offices in both Brooklyn and the Bronx also have elder abuse task forces.

The City Council members for the first time were able to choose elder abuse as a topic to make educational pamphlets that they distribute to constituents. The information in the brochures provided an informative tone on what elder abuse is, where they could call for help and included the five city-funded agencies in the brochure. Council Member Jessica Lappin said they want people to realize that elder abuse is more common than they think. She needs for them to have the strength to report it when it happens to them or someone they may know. Lappin has chaired the Council’s Aging Committee, since 2010.

Agency and Community Commitment

According to Sackman, the formation of a “community watch,” which observes, identifies and reports potential cases of elder abuse, and more public awareness is essential in battling elder abuse in the city. She, along with others have requested that the City Council make funding elder abuse programs automatic, rather than being subject to annual contracts.

Sackman said, is it fair to question the commitment and the money should be in place already. Lappin said that there is no real opposition to the base-lining of funding. Also, she would like to see the Council restore the base-lined status funding.

She said that everyone realizes how important these programs are, but there are conflicting priorities. The budget has to be balanced an issue and fiscal reality. She said, since 2009, the city’s Department for the Aging has seen significant budget cuts. So these fell on senior citizen centers, other programs, Meals on Wheels and elder abuse work.

Lappin said that with the hurricane, they saw how important the services are. And he said that Meals on Wheels volunteers carried food up many flights of stairs to seniors. These are those who were not normally on their routes. Funding to baseline for senior centers was restored last year.

But she believes it is too early to determine what will happen with this year’s budget. She said especially with the hurricane, which will have a large impact on the overall budget.

Zieff continues her work, currently and stated that they were hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. She says they believe they are going to see more exploitation of the elderly and people will be moving in with each other; she said she shudders to think what will occur with that happening.

Los Angeles has been hit by a history of taxing and spending. We have seen businesses leaving our state in droves. That is one of the reasons why there is no money left to pay for a court of record, for example. One can see there are many parallels to what is happening in New York.

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A Guide to Choosing a Safe Nursing Home

Caring nurse holding kind elderly lady's hands in bed.
Caring nurse holding kind elderly lady’s hands in bed.

Nursing homes are long-term care and living facilities for the elderly and disabled. Often these people are your parents. And they can be provided care by a trained and experienced staff member of the care facility. This is an option for the individual. This is a person who cannot live alone any longer. Often they require assistance with daily care. There are over 1.6 million Americans currently living as residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nursing homes number more than 16,000 in the United States, with some having as few as 30 residents, while others have hundreds of residents.

Selecting a Nursing Home—the Guidelines

When faced with placing a loved one in a nursing home, there are some guidelines that while simple may prevent placing them in a long term care facility where there is the possibility of nursing home abuse in Long Beach, California. The first step is to visit several nursing homes, and pay close attention to the residents; do they have a clean appearance?

Are their clothes clean and neat? Are they active, talking and moving about, or are they in their rooms in bed? Are there enough nursing home employees to see to the needs of the residents and provide adequate care, or do they lack in nursing home staff? Is the nursing home within your budget?

The other things to look for should include, whether the residents seem drowsy from possible sedation? Look into how many residents are physically restrained and why are they physically restrained. Does it seem like a valid reason? Check into the type of care the nursing home will provide for your loved one. Ensure your loved one will receive the type of care that they require.

Investigate if there have been any complaints reported to the police or the health department about the care of residents or nursing home abuse, at any of the nursing homes you are considering choosing for the placement of your elderly family member. Taking these steps, along with other precautions when selecting a place for your loved one, can ensure they will be a resident of a nursing home where they receive the proper care and are not subjected to nursing home abuse of any form.

Nursing Home Neglect

In Long Beach, California nursing home neglect involves caregivers not providing the proper care of the elderly residents in the facility or fails to protect them from harm. Caregivers are charged with providing care that the resident does not harm themselves. Because due to diminished mental capacity or physical limitations they can get injured by another resident of the nursing home for example. Nursing home residents may suffer physical harm, mental abuse or sexual assault by a staff member too. Also, they can become financially exploited.

Hygiene and Nursing Home Attendants

Personal hygiene is essential for the nursing home resident, and it plays a role in the prevention of nursing home abuse. In Long Beach, California there are guidelines and procedures set by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid outlining good hygiene practices for nursing home attendants and staff. In cases where these guidelines for good hygiene are ignored, it is usually due to carelessness or laziness. Lack of cleanliness for nursing home residents puts them at risk for both health issues and elderly abuse since they are dependent on the attendants.

Hygienic Practices

In a California nursing home, hand hygiene and other hygienic practices are essential for the residents and the staff. Many of these nursing homes have been cited, due to complaints about their hygienic practices to the Health Department. When health inspectors investigated these complaints, they found there is not adequate staffing, which causes part of the problem leading to the charges. The other part of the problem is that the hygienic standards are not being followed.

Nursing Home Abuse Resolution

If you are still unable to mitigate the potential of an inadequate care provider for those on their last leg in life, it is time for step two.  Step number two, when nursing home abuse or neglect have affected a loved one, it is time to call Ehline Law Firm. These California advocates should be consulted to protect the rights of your family member.

Mom, Dad, Aging and Financial Protection

Elderly are Gullible and Easily Hurt With Dishonesty
Senior rights concept and fighting old age and elderly abuse symbol with a clenched fist coming out of the mouth of an aging person representing the political voice of the older citizens and geriatrics patients on a white background.

A lot of stuff coming out of NY and California lately in the senior citizen abuse realm. Here is one about a lawyer and client conspiring to steal for a senior. New York socialite Anthony D. Marshall was convicted of defrauding and stealing from his elderly mother, philanthropist Brooke Astor, in what was called the “swindle trial.” [1. Read More.]

There were detailed reports on how Marshall conspired with attorney Francis Morrissey in amending Brooke Astor’s will in his favor, to gain millions without his mother’s consent. He took valuable paintings off of the walls in her Park Avenue home, while she suffered. The evidence revealed a pattern of greed, neglect, misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance. Incidentally, in California, financial abuse of seniors, is often mentioned in the news[2. financial abuse], including financial abuse of the elderly. [3. elder financial abuse] This is not limited to New York by any means.

California Family Member Financial Abuse

Another story mentioned in Consumer Reports is that of Elise Brooks, a 72-year-old who sold her mobile home and moved in with her daughter and granddaughter, in Monterey, California. She allegedly then decided that she did not want to handle her finances any longer, and decided to permit her daughter and granddaughter to have control of her finances. Some elders do this with their attorneys as well.  In any event,  the facts showed that her daughter, Lisa Karen MacAdams, and granddaughter Christi Schoenbachler, financially ruined Brooks by siphoning off all of her money. [4. People v. Schoenbachler]

They drained her of an annuity, worth approximately $90,000, her jewelry and furniture, if this wasn’t enough, then they dumped her in a nursing facility. Mother and daughter were both convicted of grand theft and financial abuse, which are both felonies, then they were also convicted of two counts of misdemeanor elder abuse. During the summer, the California court of appeal stayed one of the misdemeanor charges Schoenbachler was charged with. Ventura, California Superior Court Judge Colleen Toy White said financial abuse is the “ultimate betrayal.” [5. Ultimate Betrayal is Abuse]  These cases are among the worst types there are.

Examples of Other Scams

Additional scams by strangers involving the elderly, include scenarios like sending an e-mail telling the elderly person he or she won a free vacation, or Somali scams[6. Somali E-Mail Scams], including but not limited to fraudulent sweepstake phone calls, investments and grandparent scams are often heard about. What is far worse and not as commonly heard about is the deception by neighbors, friends, employees and relatives. The people most entrusted to provide protection and care for seniors.

This kind of abuse can be emotional and financially devastating to the senior. [7. Devastation to Elders and Economy] Experts say that this kind behavior, will likely increase due to the stalled economy and the large number of aging population.

It is still a crime that is largely unreported, since seniors may not recognize what is happening to them, or they are ashamed and embarrassed, which keeps them from speaking out. Remember that elders are far more gullible and susceptible to this type of abuse (Source.)

In New York in 2011 a randomized telephone survey [<<< See PDF here] was released, in which seniors mentioned being financially exploited, more frequently than any other kind of abuse. Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Loewy, who was the lead prosecutor on the Marshall/ Astor case says, that almost every time she lectures on financial abuse, she will have people approach her with their own personal story. (Read more.) Elder financial exploitation in California, is defined below.

Classic Elder Abuse Scenarios

Classically in elder abuse cases, the predator will isolate the older adult, to create an environment, where they are in fear of the abuser, or in love with the abuse. Unlicensed home contractors, kids selling candy to keep kids off or drugs and gangs, internet prizes, bank scams, are occurring more than ever. Crimes involving people like lawyers, nurses, and even doctors, who are in close contact with the seniors, are also on the rise. Many cases we have dealt with involve a friend, or family member ripping off the relative!

Prevention and Protection

  • Consult with an Elder Abuse Attorney:  Make sure and get legal advice from a lawyer, when an elder or dependent adult under your care exhibits signs of dementia or abuse. An attorney can direct you as to the steps you may need to take to protect vulnerable seniors or children.
  • Hire Licensed Professionals: Hiring a probate lawyer, setting up a court ordered conservator-ship, is a wise choice. Hiring an estate planning attorney can help with writing your will, plus be able to write power of attorney documents, which have trusts limiting the amount of access to your money that relatives have. And of course, having it signed off on by a judge, if the elder is already under a conservator-ship.  The main thing is to set these up before you start to lose control of your mental faculties.
  • Documents: Before giving anyone power of attorney, it should be carefully thought out. This person is legally your fiduciary, who is responsible for acting in your best interests, though they could do anything with your money, without you knowing about it. It is not always the wisest choice to permit someone closest to you to have this power. In some cases, you could be safer having someone that is more disconnected and who is financially secure.

Power of attorney documents, which have limits, can be done without extra cost, experts say, which assigns a relative or friend to monitor the person who is named with the power of attorney. Joint power of attorneys, requiring two signatures on every check can be drawn up, and when assigning a relative or friend to monitor the person who has power of attorney, it can mandate that periodic reports be written of financial transactions. Another way this can be done is to split the authority, giving one person power to handle financial matters, with the other person in control of health decisions. It is important for your lawyer to physically hold the papers, which can prevent anyone from prematurely presenting them to your bank or investment company to acquire access to your funds.
  • Daily Account Arrangements: Daily accounts, which are where pension benefits, Social Security checks and other payments like tax refunds are deposited, should be set up with direct deposit. This is also going to be a Social Security mandate, as of March 1, 2013 requiring checks either be direct deposit paid electronically or on a debit card. Details about this can be found on their website, under Automated bill pay is also wise to set up, with your bank for mortgage payments, utility bills and other regular reoccurring expenses. Another thing that can be done is to have your financial institution send statements and alerts to someone you trust, but has no access to any of your accounts, to check for fraud or other unexplained issues.

Actor Mickey Rooney made news in July of 2012, in a battle against his stepson Christopher Aber age 52 and his wife Christina Aber age 42 for emotional, verbal and financial abuse of Rooney. Rooney alleged his stepson and wife deprived him of his medication, isolated him, by stopping him from leaving the house. This occurred over an alleged ten year period.

Court documents filed by attorney Bruce S. Ross and attorney Vivian L. Thoreen on behalf of Rooney alleged the Abers were liable for leaving the 90-year-old actor powerless over his assets and personal life. At one point Aber got ATM debit/credit cards in the name of Densmore, Rooney’s company and then used them regularly for his own personal benefit. The petition that was filed said Rooney had no knowledge about the credit/debit cards.

Earlier in March of 2011, Rooney testified in front of Congress, saying he had felt trapped, frightened and helpless and that was a terrible feeling for a man. Rooney’s current wife is the mother of Aber and is denying the actor’s claims of elder abuse by her son.

A year prior Rooney had attorney Michael Augustine appointed to be a permanent conservator of his estate and also placed a restraining order against both Christopher and Christina Aber. Aber was ordered in February 2012 to turn over the actor’s identification cards, passport, insurance cards, Screen Actors Guild membership and Identification cards.

  • Security: Security is essential, and you should ensure that any caregiver you or the family of a senior considering hiring, must undergo a background check. Never assume that a placement agency will conduct a thorough background check. In doing this, you need to make certain that it is a national check, rather than a state or a local one. States where the law allows, consider installing a security camera monitoring system.

It is estimated that approximately 6 million elderly citizens are faced with abuse. According to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA) figures in 2005, there were between one and two million elderly (over the age of 65) mistreated, injured or exploited by caregivers they depended on. The organization estimates that for every one case of elder abuse reported, and there are five cases that go unreported.

Mail: Mail should never be left in unsecured mail boxes, and any documents with identifying information should be shredded. Valuables and jewelry should be photographed, and the photos, along with any small valuables should be locked up, but in separate places. This is important for insurance policies and in case the need arises to check pawn shops, if necessary.

Protecting Older Relatives

It is important to protect older relatives, ensure they can go out, when necessary. Physical and social isolation is often associated with elder abuse. You should make unplanned visits regularly, and arrangements should be made for the senior to have outings to visit with friends, clergy, neighbors and volunteers.

February 12, 2013, in Florida began the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging annual seminar. The 12th will begin the first of the series in the seminar to discuss the important issues of elder abuse to family members, caregivers, and other professionals. The coalition and the NCEA hope to bring public awareness to the growing problem of elder abuse that they say often overlooked.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics backs up their concern, showing that the number of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation as of 2010 showed at least 10 percent of senior citizens had suffered some form of abuse. Their statistics also shows that the majority of the elderly abuse victims are female senior citizens.

  • Setting Rules: The family with an older adult, should have a meeting and determine who will be looking after the physical and financial interests of the senior. If one relative or sibling will be handling the largest part of the care, then an attorney should be retained to draft a “personal care agreement.” This will detail the amount the care giver will receive for services. According to Starnes a CFP, it is reasonable that a family member providing care should be paid. This can keep a lot of caregivers out of trouble because they know the limitations.
  • Limited Accounts: if the relatives financial abilities are in question, then an account can be set up at a local bank, with a small amount of money being deposited, it can include a debit card and checks. This account can have a spending limit put on it, of a few hundred dollars, and an arrangement with the bank to investigate any checks that are written for a higher amount.
The NCEA estimate for elder financial exploitation is approximately five million since all of these types of cases are not reported. Many go unreported out of shame, or because it is a family member, the senior citizen does not want to get in trouble.
  • Availability: Make yourself available to accompany the senior to meetings with doctors, and financial advisors, who can help in putting in place plans for the relative’s protection. Starnes said that people are often concerned about this conversation, but he said it does not have to be approached in an adversarial manner. The conversation can be one in which the senior is praised for the job that they have done and you just want to be helpful.

Observation and Warning Signs

Be alert to the elderly person who has a new “best friend,” if they do not seem to ever be available or able to come to the telephone. Be suspicious if the senior does not seem to want to have contact with others, unless their caregiver is present or becomes socially isolated.

Lincoln County Maine, the home of Gwendolyn Swank, who worked all her life and after being manipulated by a longtime neighbor for six years, her nest egg of over $300,000 in assets and her monthly security checks were gone. Swank was left with $.37 cents in her bank account.
In 2004 Swanks neighbor Rodney Chapman became the elderly woman’s best friend, the now 85-year-old said she worked hard to put away what she says was a “good portfolio” to depend on in her old age. She said she never believed Chapman would take her for a “ride.”

Swank was the manager of a mobile home park, where Chapman and his family were her neighbors when he fell behind in his payments. This was in 2004 when she let him work off some of the debt mowing lawns and doing repairs.The state that Chapman left his longtime neighbor in after spending most of her life working as a financial bookkeeper is behind on payments to credit card companies, her landlord, Central Maine Power Company, and the IRS for the money withdrawn from stocks and IRA accounts.

Swank at 85 went back to work at a local business, the first part of this year to help pay off the debt she is in, including the $60,000 for taxes from the withdrawal of money from stocks and IRAs. Lincoln County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, said Swanks’ case differs from many other cases, where a family member is usually the abuser. This is the family member that borrows money and never has any intention of paying it back to the older adult. Rushlau said, in this case, Swank was told a concocted story of lies to keep her in her home, terrified and isolated from dangers Chapman told her were outside.

Swank was worried about illegal drug activity, which is believed to from a drug bust that occurred in 1999 in her area. Chapman told her lies that went on for years, including that he had Texas Rangers law enforcement connections and connections with a judge. He said that they could help to rid the area of the drug activity, but he would require money for transportation, lodgings for these people and to dispose of drug dealer’s bodies.

Swank said she believed the stories; even know knowing how they sound. Chapman staged fights outside, pounded on her trailer, and would not let her use her telephone. He took her phone with him, restricted Swank’s use of her car and restricted her visitors, telling her it was for her safety. In another instance, Chapman talked Swank into a business venture, where she would be the bookkeeper. He convinced her to purchase an auto repair and recovery business.

Swank paid for the tools, a welder, and expensive trailer to haul cars. She never saw any return from the business and now is not sure it ever existed. Lincoln County elder abuse case specialist Detective Robert McFetridge, said Swank’s case became known to him when he received phone calls from people concerned about her situation.

The detective said one of the calls was from a business where Swank’s checks were bouncing. Detective McFetridge said that Swank was not ready to talk about the situation and credits Lincoln County Deputy Brian Collamore for keeping a relationship going with Swank until she was ready to talk. The end came when Swank gave Chapman a deadline to return some of the money and the deadline passed. She then made a statement for the deputy.When arrested Chapman he admitted to his crimes, and Detective McFetridge believes there were others involved in the financial exploitation of Swank.

Swank was represented by Maine Legal Services for the Elderly attorney Dennis Culley and won a civil judgment of $1.3 million on June 12th. Chapman was sentenced to five years for his crimes against Swank, who has little or no ability to pay the judgment, Swank was awarded.

Other issues that should be watched for:

  • If another individual is designated to make payments, look for unpaid bills.
  • Newly authorized signers on the senior’s bank account.
  • Signatures unfamiliar on checks and other documents.
  • Canceled checks and bank statements that are no longer sent to the seniors home.
  • Changes in banks or lawyers.
  • Generous gifts or reimbursements to caregivers or friends.
  • Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, transfers between accounts, or missing property.
  • Changes in spending patterns or purchases of items that are not for the senior or ones they do not need.
  • Variations in any of the senior’s documents, such as a power of attorney or will, and changes in beneficiaries the senior cannot comprehend or explain.
  • Extreme interest in the seniors finances by a relative, caregiver or friend.
  • Lack of personal care, like having clean clothing and grooming items.


  • Scenario: You hire a lawyer to help you with your abuse case, and when the case settles, the attorney attempts to recover their hotel bills from their vacation. You felt too indebted to the lawyer and intimidated that you won’t get your settlement check unless you agree.

Solution: Demand the disputed amounts are set aside in trust, that you be paid immediately, and a full accounting. You can also contact the California State Bar and lodge a complaint about cases that were particularly egregious.
  • Scenario: You ask a friend, or roommate to deposit some money into the bank for you. You trusted this person when you were not feeling well, but it was necessary, so you could pay your rent and gave him or her your cash to deposit. You discover later that only half of the money was collected.  So when you ask for the deposit slip, the roommate says they needed the money for gas, etc., and she ignores your demand(s) or changes the subject.Courts in Washington D.C. are reportedly seeing more elderly abuse cases. Studies say elder abuse cases are of different types from neglect, financial abuse, and violent beating, with only one in every 14 cases being reported.

According to Washington D.C. Superior Court’s Probate Division Judge John Campbell, who oversees cases for incapacitated adults or adults in need of guardianship, said he is seeing more elder abuse cases than ever before. Judge Campbell said he believes this is because people are living longer and due to being frail, having disease and dementia they are targets. He said these are people that raised us and took care of us, who are not being mistreated and it is upsetting.

Solution: The first thing you should do is contact the bank or financial institution and close the account. The next this you need to do is communicate with the police, and the city, or county attorney, and even the State Attorney General, as well as an elderly abuse lawyer.

Finding More Information and Help

Adult Protective Services County APS agencies investigate reports of abuse of elders and dependent adults who live in private homes and hotels or hospitals and health clinics when the abuser is not at the staff member. (The Licensing & Certification program of the California Department of Health Services handles cases of abuse by a member of a hospital or health clinic.)

National Center on Elder Abuse links to state directories of help lines, elder abuse prevention resources and hotlines in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

AARP’s Scams and Fraud the latest information on fraud and scams against older adults.

AARP Money Management Program this is a service that assists seniors and individuals with disabilities with limited resources by pairing them up with trained money management volunteers. The service helps older persons who are in control of their finances to pay bills, balance checkbooks and also focuses on individuals deemed incapable of dealing with their funds. This program is offered in 21 states and the District of Columbia but varies in availability.

National Adult Protective Services Association this provides a national map, which has links to abuse reporting hotlines listed in each state.

Better Business Bureau Scam Stopper information found here on common scams and the instructions on how to report scams. It is also possible to sign up for scam alerts on the website.

National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers geriatric care managers and professionals can assist in all areas of the senior citizen’s lives, including managing medical appointments, monitoring in-home care workers, identifying potential exploitation risks, in some cases, they can pay bills and handle paperwork, along with other services.

American Association of Daily Money Managers can help seniors with bill paying, insurance paperwork, banking, and organizing records to file income tax returns and other tasks, with members nationwide to assist the elderly.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans this organization receives and investigates consumer fraud complaints with credit cards, bank loans, mortgages and other financial fraud.
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys this has a search for lawyers who specialize in elder law, including durable power of attorney, estate planning, conservatorship, elder abuse and other legal services. Telephone 703-942-571.

Disclaimer: This is a non-commercial publication intended to educate the community as a whole as to the dangers of various types of elderly abuse. Any similarity to this article with others, and any sources linked to, or cited to as authority, provide full credit to the original author(s), and assist consumers in researching PUBLIC ISSUES of importance, and are protected under the doctrine(s) of fair use, among other things.

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