Rising Elder Abuse in Arizona
The numbers of elder abuse cases in Arizona are increasing as the state’s retired population grows. Scams targeting the elderly may be the focus of news reports, but the reality of the situation is even sadder. The elderly are reportedly most often the victims of fraud perpetrated by family members, not strangers.
Unscrupulous family members may manipulate an older person to change their will to cut out other loved ones. Or a family member, or other caregiver, named as agent in a durable power of attorney may use his or her power to steal from the elderly person, leaving them financially and emotionally destitute.
According to Arizona Adult Protective Services (APS), for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, APS received a total of over 11,000 – an all-time high – reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults in Arizona. Of those, over 3,100 involved financial exploitation – the theft or misappropriation of the vulnerable adult’s money or other assets to uses not solely for the benefit of the adult. Family members were reported as the alleged perpetrators in about 34% of Arizona elder abuse cases.
Why do family members defraud their elderly relatives? This kind of behavior is typically motivated by greed. “They feel entitled,” according to Angel Guzman, with Adult Protective Services. But accelerating your inheritance isn’t just in bad taste: it’s illegal and can result in both criminal charges and elder law litigation, with substantial penalties.
In other cases, the issue isn’t an accelerated inheritance… it’s theft. Jewelry may be taken, or a checkbook or checks may be pilfered and bank accounts run dry.
Although elder abuse happens at the hands of family members, the unregulated home-care industry is a source of many elder abuse cases as well. Family members may hire a service.
One of the difficulties with elder law litigation is that the victim may have impaired mental capacity and may not be able to serve as a witness against those who exploit him/her.
That’s why it’s essential that suspected elder abuse cases be investigated immediately. Wait, and important evidence may disappear, or the victim may forget important conversations. Fortunately, Arizona has a strong Adult Protection Act that includes protections and severe potential penalties for abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
If you suspect that someone may be the victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation in Arizona, contact Adult Protective Services and our office for a consultation with an experienced elder law litigation attorney.