In An Era of Elder Abuse, How Can You Prevent Exploitation?

by Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, Esq.

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Virginia’s Adult Protective Services (APS) department noted a 53% increase in reports of abuse for the year 2014. It is, however, believed that despite these numbers, as a result of social isolation, family involvement, reluctance to report, or lack of education, elder abuse remains an under reported epidemic.

Elder abuse, as defined by the Older Americans Act, is defined as, “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish including deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.” Exploitation is defined as, “fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets..” According to the National Research Council, exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse.

So, how does you protect yourself as aging occurs? While difficult to answer, the solution lies in understanding the risk factors and what preventative measures may be available.

It is often understood that those with cognitive impairment are at the greatest risk of falling victim to exploitation and that victimizers are usually close to the victim. While a number of factors may lead someone to exploit another, some common risk factors include: caregiver stress, depression, substance abuse, financial problems, social isolation, family issues, and illness.

Obviously one of the best ways to prevent exploitation is to prevent isolation and engage in communication with other close friends and family members. Additionally, you should use professionals to ensure that financial and legal affairs are in order. By using professionals, you can attempt to minimize undue influence and build a relationship that may protect you when unusual activity begins to occur.

It is also important to understand that your estate plan is much more than a number of forms and that your agent understands that, as a fiduciary, they have duties to you and that their powers may be more limited than what they may perceive.

A properly drafted estate plan should have safeguards centered on your particular situation. Some alternatives to consider may include appointing co-agents who can check on what the other has done on your behalf and requiring your agent to produce an accounting.

Since it often difficult to recover misused or stolen funds, you may desire to ensure there are safeguards in place that would ensure reimbursement for such funds. For example, you may consider utilizing a professional agent who is insured and/or bonded for his/her services. In some circumstances, you may also want to consider a guardianship and conservatorship so that your agent is not only required to post a bond, but his/her actions will be routinely reviewed by the local court.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat: Chatting Cats

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, tell us about how cats chat with us.

Kit Kat: Cats have been mistakenly characterized as being aloof and uncommunicative. However, take it from an expert, and I don’t mean me, but a real expert on cats. Dr. Gary Weitzman is president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA who has just published a new book called How to Speak Cat. H e says that each purr, twitch of an eyebrow, or eye blink means  something. You humans just have to get with it, and learn how to speak Cat. For instance, cats meow for humans, not among themselves. Apparently, there are 16 different meows, and they can mean the signal to feed, pet, or let your feline outside. Dr. Weitzman also says that cats talk with their tails and eyes. A slow blink can be translated to be a wink. A more rapid blink is like a kiss. When a cat enters a room with his/her tail straight up, it is equivalent to a handshake.

Dr. Weitzman has more interesting things to say about the language of cats. You just might want to curl up with your beloved feline and learn more. However, here is one more nugget of information you might not have considered. Melissa Cox, director of communications at Happy Cats Sanctuary in Medford, NY, is always surprised when someone comes in to adopt a cat and asks for a particular color of fur on the cat. Coat color has nothing to do with personality. Her advice is don’t “go by looks alone because the true indicator of compatibility is spending time with a cat and getting to know it.” Sounds like good advice to me regarding cats and regarding friendship with any living being.

(http://news.yahoo.com/cats-chat-with-us-meows-blinks-roving-whiskers-141741791.html) (4-15-15)

Upcoming Seminars and Events

  • May 21 & 22, 2015 –The HLC Monthly Seminar for May is My Mother Needs Long-Term Care Right Now…What Can I Do?  The seminar is scheduled at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Suffolk and at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 22, 2015 in Virginia Beach.  To register and reserve your seat, please call 757-399-7506 and ask for Debbie or register online at hooklawcenter.com/seminars.
  • June 25, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking to a group at the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  • August 12, 2015 – Andrew Hook will be speaking to a group at Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • August 21, 2015 – Andrew Hook will be speaking to a group at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • August 27, 2015 – Andrew Hook will be speaking to a group at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News, Virginia.
  • September 9, 2015 – Andrew Hook will be speaking at a Virginia Continuing Legal Education seminar.
  • October 26, 2015Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will be speaking at the National Business Institute’s seminar on The Probate Process from Start to Finish in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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