All 50 states have laws to prevent elder abuse and all have adult protective services (APS) agencies to look into reports of suspected elder abuse. Despite this, however, elder abuse seems to be on the rise in Florida and in other states. A 2004 Survey of State Adult Protective Services found that the total number of reports of elder abuse and neglect increased by 19.75 between 2000 and 2004. Substantiated cases of abuse rose 15.6% between 2000 and 2004.
Elder abuse is the general term that refers to any intentional, negligent, and knowing action which causes serious risk or harm to an adult who’s considered elderly or vulnerable. Elder abuse can include emotional or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Neglect and abandonment are also considered forms of elder abuse. Abuse of elderly persons can lead to serious personal injuries, including burn injuries, broken limbs, and other serious conditions. That’s one reason why it is everyone’s business.
If you suspect that elder abuse is taking place, you must report it. Simply call your local adult protective services hotline to report the incident. The agency will screen your call for potential seriousness, and will keep all information you provide confidential. If the agency determines that the case is serious and may be in violation of local elder abuse laws, a caseworker will be assigned to conduct an investigation into the allegations. If the call signifies a potential emergency in which an elderly person is in immediate danger, the agency will generally dispatch someone within 24 hours to investigate. If the elderly victim is in need of help, services will be made available to that person.
One potential problem with elder abuse cases is that elderly persons have the right to refuse services offered by the agency. In other words, the senior has to agree or must have been declared incapacitated by a court in order for the agency to intervene. In cases where an elderly person is deeply intimidated or fearful after abuse has taken place, that person may simply not agree to have an agency help them, even if such help is really required.
In these cases, it can be truly heartbreaking for family or friends to see abuse taking place, but to feel as though they have no recourse to help their elderly loved one. In such cases, a qualified and experienced Florida attorney may help. Even if the local agency cannot intervene because an elderly person has refused help, a Florida attorney can help family and friends understand what legal options they have.
If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of abuse, but are having trouble getting help from traditional channels, contact us at 1- 800-535-2962 (1 800 5 FLAXMAN). We can set up a private, no obligation consultation to help you understand your legal options. We will meet with you or the elderly person at no cost and can help you understand how and where you can get help.