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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Protect Yourself & Your Loved Ones from Elder Abuse

Have you ever seen the movie Happy Gilmore? It’s an Adam Sandler comedy about a wannabe hockey player that takes up professional golf in order to make enough money to save his beloved grandmother’s home from foreclosure. While Happy is out playing on the PGA tour, his grandma is placed in a nursing home with a manager that is verbally abusive, and runs a sweatshop in the arts and crafts room.

Elder abuse is such a taboo topic that the comical portrayal of it in Happy Gilmore is one of the only representations of it you will see in pop culture. It is a topic that is swept under the rug and ignored despite its growing frequency.

For example, last year alone, 21 people were convicted for scamming elderly North Carolina residents out of more than $91 million. That's nearly $150,000 per person among 700 known victims.

Abuse Takes Many Forms

The abuse shown in Happy Gilmore is obviously comically exaggerated. So what does real abuse look like? There are three main types - physical (including sexual), mental, and financial. All are serious, and all are happening in our communities.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones against elder abuse.

First and foremost, you should talk about it! Keeping this issue quite only feeds the perception that it is not a big deal, and that it rarely occurs.

Next, you can start putting safeguards in place to prevent abuse. If you or someone you love is going into a care center, look the facility’s records with the state. Have complaints or lawsuits been filed against them? If so, that information should be available. If you don’t know where to look for this information, an attorney may be able to help you locate it. You can also ask the facility itself for this information, and if it is trustworthy, it will provide a report to you.

It is important to remember, however, that it is family members, not nursing homes, that are the most likely perpetrators of abuse. So, keep in mind the same advice you hear at the airport - “If you see something, say something.” If you think your relative is abusing you, or you suspect a family member is being abused, speak up! Don’t let the fear of ruining one family relationship or friendship destroy another.

Finally, you should consider creating a power of attorney document that can spring into effect should you or your loved one become unable to make sound decisions.

In a power of attorney document, a guardian, typically a trusted family member or friend, is given the power to make decisions on the protected person’s behalf. It is critical that the person given power of attorney be trustworthy because if they are the ones doing the abusing, it will be difficult to prove in court.

Contrary to popular belief, creating a power of attorney document does not mean that you are putting another person in control of your health and financial decisions for the rest of your life. What it actually does is put a person “on call” so that if you are ever unable to make your own decisions, the person you trust most to make those decisions on your behalf can legally step up and do so.

If You Or A Loved One Is Being Abused Contact the Authorities

If you or a loved one is being abused, you should contact your local police department.


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