You may think that because you don’t practice elder law or estate planning you will never encounter elder abuse in your career. But as our population ages, we all need to be on the lookout for elder abuse—physical, emotional, or financial—and know what to do if we suspect our clients may be victims. Certainly, estate planning is a practice area where attorneys are likely to run across elder abuse, but attorneys practicing in the fields of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate should also be alert for signs that an elderly client is being taken advantage of.
An elderly client who has suddenly incurred debts that don’t make sense given his or her lifestyle may be the victim of financial abuse. A grandchild bringing in a frail grandmother to “sign over the house to protect it” may be taking advantage of the elder, and a family law attorney reviewing a divorce agreement between spouses of vastly different ages might be looking at a case of elder abuse. A personal injury attorney or elder law attorney is probably more likely to see signs of physical elder abuse, but again, being alert for the signs is a good idea for all attorneys.
Signs of Physical and Emotional Abuse
Signs of physical abuse include injuries, unexplained bruises, or a general lack of being cared for. Keep in mind that physical abuse won’t only look like bruises or fractures but also broken eyeglasses, torn clothing, or bruises on strange places like wrists or neck, where elders would be unlikely to bump themselves.