The National Center on Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” Many people immediately think of nursing home abuses when they hear the term, and elder abuse certainly includes those instances in which elders are abused and neglected in a nursing home. But the great majority of elder abuse occurs in the community, where most elders live.
In fact, it’s estimated that 90 percent of all elder abuse is committed by the elder’s relatives, many of whom are themselves over the age of 60. A classic example is a 65 year old relative moving into an 85 year old elder’s home to act as a caretaker, then physically and/or emotionally abusing the elder while using the elder’s money to pay for his own wants and needs.
In addition, elder abuse often occurs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities for the elderly. Especially when these facilities are profit-oriented, staff is often overworked, and active abuse and negligence of residents’ needs is common. Elders are also sometimes abused in nursing facilities by other residents. The older the resident, the more likely that abuse will occur.
Many cases of elder abuse are never reported for various reasons, like not wanting to get a family member in trouble, fear of the abuser, and lack of the cognitive skills needed to make a report.
Types of Abuse
There is no limit to the kinds of mistreatment that elders may encounter. The most common forms of elder abuse can be divided into several broad categories:
- Physical abuse: assaults of various kinds, restraining the elder, giving the elder inappropriate drugs, etc.
- Sexual abuse: this may involve overt sexual acts and touching, or more indirect acts like displays of pornography, forcing sexual conversations, or watching the elder undress
- Emotional and psychological abuse: this is typically criticizing, threatening, insulting and other verbal acts, but can also be passive, such as when the elder is ignored or kept away from friends and family
- Neglect: this includes intentionally ignoring or inadvertently overlooking any needs that the elder has for care
One form of abuse that has been growing involves caretakers appropriating the elder’s financial resources. In simple terms: stealing the elder’s money in some form, including using the elder’s money to pay the caretaker’s bills. In some cases, the abuser has obtained a power of attorney from the victim, either legitimately or by manipulation and threat, but is misusing the power.
The exploitation can take any one or more of several forms:
- Outright theft of cash or valuable property
- Using the elder’s personal checks and/or credit cards
- Wholesale identity theft
These kinds of abuse cases are complex, but an experienced Maine attorney can identify which of several remedies to pursue, including the possibility of setting aside property transfers.
Court Order for Protection from Abuse
In Maine, the concept of a protective court order has been extended to people 60 and older. An order can be obtained against extended family members—those related by blood, adoption or marriage—and unpaid care providers. The term “unpaid care provider” includes any caretaker who voluntarily provides care to the abused elder in the elder’s home similar to the ways a family member would provide care. It does not matter whether the care is provided full time, intermittently, or occasionally.
The complaint asking for protection may be filed by the victim, the victim’s legal guardian, or a representative of the state DHHS.
As part of the petition for a protective order, you can specifically request that the defendant:
- Cease the abuse
- Have no further contact with you
- Not enter your separate residence
- Hand over possession of your residence and leave it immediately
- Return possession of specific personal and household property
If you are in imminent danger, you can request a temporary order of protection at the time you file the complaint, which ordinarily issues the same day if a judge agrees that the order is justified.
After a hearing on the complaint, the court can issue a variety of orders, including monetary compensation from the defendant:
- Compensation to the abused person for monetary losses caused by the abuse, such as reasonable expenses incurred to care for personal injuries
- Court costs and attorney fees
Legal Help for Abused Elders in Maine
If you are being abused, or you know someone else who is, or even might be, suffering abuse, it’s time to call for help. For some experienced advice on how to proceed with a legal remedy, whether it be a lawsuit to recover stolen funds, a personal injury suit against a caretaker or nursing home, or an order for protection from abuse, contact Jabar Injury Law immediately. We’ve been in Maine and satisfying clients for more than 35 years, and can help you sort out your legal options and determine your best course of action. Don’t wait, because abuse can escalate. Call today for a free consultation.