Last month was National Elder Abuse Prevention Month. Elder abuse is a growing concern as the population ages. Here at Silverman Law Office, elder abuse is an issue many of our clients around the state have expressed to us over the years. According to the Montana Senior Care Guide’s numbers based on the last census – fifteen percent of the population of Montana are senior citizens. This demographic is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade. Incidentally, thirty percent of Montana seniors are living alone. Even with imperfect statistics on elder abuse, we do know that isolation and lack of social support are significant risk factors.
When an elderly person loses the ability to care for themselves, there should be a network of friends, family members, and professionals working together to provide the level of attention they need. Historically, children shared the responsibility for the care of aging parents. Today, migration of young families means that many elderly Montanans are left alone with inadequate care. As people get older, they must rely more on outside help to take care of themselves. This creates a greater chance someone will mistreat them, or take advantage of them.
It’s important to know the signs of elder abuse because an abuser wants control for their own benefit. Elder abuse occurs in many forms: it may be physical, mental, emotional, or financial. Older people living with abuse may not be cognizant they’re being abused. Or, they might be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with their family. It can happen to anyone regardless of whether they are receiving in-home care, or care in a facility. Red flags of physical abuse include: old, shabby, or dirty clothing, improper hygiene, unexplained or recurring bodily injuries, and resistance to seeing a doctor about these injuries. If you notice a decline in your elder loved one’s appearance, or their overall well-being, you should document what you see. It’s important to get engaged in your loved one’s care. Visit them in their home or care facility and get to know their caretakers.
With financial scams on the rise, seniors are more likely to fall victim to financial exploitation due to cognitive decline or a disability. An open and honest family conversation is crucial. It’s important to discuss your loved one’s overall financial plan for retirement income, and transferring of assets. You also need to talk about power of attorney in their favor. Make sure sensitive documents and passwords are secure. Be wary of anybody asking your loved ones to change their will or estate planning documents like a health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney. Be sure to monitor anyone that has access to your loved one’s assets, accounts, or to their home.
Be alert, suffering is often done in silence. If you suspect elder abuse, contact Montana Adult Protective Services at 1-844-277-9300. If you need help getting an estate plan in place for your loved one, give our office a call at 406-449-4829. Bringing awareness to the growing concern of elder abuse is the only way to keep our elder population safe.