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November 14, 2022 Top Legal News of the Week

Silence and social isolation increase elder abuse

In his opening remarks during the American Bar Association virtual 2022 National Aging and Law Conference program, “Putting Elder Abuse in the Spotlight,” former Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood encouraged the audience to think of an older person in their family or community. “It is possible they could be a victim of some form of elder abuse, and you don’t know about it because they have remained silent,” he said.

Experts from across the country met to discuss elder abuse, guardianship and other emerging trends in policy concerning older adults.

Experts from across the country met to discuss elder abuse, guardianship and other emerging trends in policy concerning older adults.

Calling it a silent epidemic, Greenwood said abusers know the elderly remain silent because they are either afraid or embarrassed, and the perpetrators “depend on it.” Victims typically remain silent because they are suffering physical abuse by a family member or caregiver or fear having their liberties and freedoms taken away if they come forward, he said.

Drawing upon lessons learned from 22 years of prosecuting serious felony elder abuse crimes in the San Diego District Attorney’s office, Greenwood said the number of cases he prosecuted during that time grew significantly. He started his career in the field with no cases. By the time he left the office, nearly four years ago, it was averaging 450 cases a year, thanks largely to outreach efforts to educate the public. Greenwood said 65 percent of the cases involved financial exploitation.

Greenwood cited scams directed at the elderly, including the The Grandma Scam, where someone poses as a grandson or lawyer seeking bail money. All scams leave older adults emotionally and financially exploited.

Greenwood said the “change in lifestyle” since the pandemic has contributed to the uptick in elder abuse cases. “That’s why I want you thinking about an older person in your life,” he said.

Social isolation, where there is a greater reliance on phones and computers, “crooks just love that,” Greenwood said. “I think we need to understand what the impact of being alone so many hours a day can have on an older adult,” he added. “So maybe today, after the webinar, you will be prompted to call a relative that you have not spoken to in several months. Find out how they are.”

During the annual program, experts  from across the country met to discuss emerging trends in law and policy concerning older adults, including elder abuse, guardianship, Social Security and the Older Americans Act.

The program was sponsored by the American Bar Association, Commission on Law and Aging, Civil Rights and Social Justice Section, Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section, Health Law Section, Senior Lawyers Division, Commission on Disability Rights and ABA Senior Lawyers Division.

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