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Increasing Protections for an Aging Population

Just a few of months ago, Ohio lawmakers designated June 15th as Elder Abuse Awareness Day. New legislation, called the Ohio Elder Justice Act, is pending before the Ohio legislature and will strengthen existing protections for Ohio elders.

As Ohio’s population ages, elder abuse is a growing phenomenon. Because elders are often isolated, without help and sometimes mentally or physically incapacitated, elder abuse frequently goes undetected.

If you are an adult child of an elderly parent, a nursing home employee, or a caregiver to senior citizens, you ought to familiarize yourself with the basics about elder abuse in Ohio — and the laws legislated to prevent it.

What is elder abuse?

The law defines elder abuse as the infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish upon an adult aged 60 or over.

Elder abuse falls broadly into three categories:

  • financial exploitation
  • physical and/or mental abuse
  • neglect

What is financial exploitation of elders?

The statute defines financial exploitation as the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker using an elder adult’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain. In plain English, this addresses the activities of a caretaker, whether a family member or a hired agent, who uses his or her position to steal from an elder. Sometimes this behavior involves attorneys or financial advisors who siphon funds from an elder’s trust, or adult children who decide to use an elder’s life savings to finance a new car, or hired companions who use the elder’s credit card to purchase items for themselves. Even an act as seemingly benign as adding yourself to your forgetful mother’s bank account without her knowledge or permission is considered financial elder abuse.

Physical and mental abuse

Physical abuse includes any act of physical violence including unwarranted physical restraints, sexual abuse and improper use of medications. Mental abuse includes threats, intimidation, humiliation, isolating the elder from friends and family members.

Neglecting an elder

Neglect is a more passive form of abuse where a caretaker(s) fails to provide an elder adequate medical attention or correct and timely medications, or fails to provide food, water, and adequate shelter. The failure to provide whatever is necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness amounts to neglect. Neglect can happen in any setting, whether the caretaker’s home, the elder’s home or a licensed nursing home.

Elder abuse is a growing problem as the population ages. Often it is not malicious but unintentional, caused by a caregiver who cannot cope with the elder’s needs or who is overwhelmed by his or her own personal problems. If you have been accused of elder abuse, get help from Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA, Ohio’s highly rated criminal defense firm

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