Elder abuse was the subject of a recent story at mynorthwest.com, entitled, “Washington state takes new steps to stem epidemic of elder abuse.” It tells the story of scammers in Washington state taking advantage of people in their care. In many instances, scammers are stealing life savings or physically abusing the very same people they have been entrusted to care for. However, a new law recently passed by the state legislature is designed to thwart crime against seniors.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson reported that Adult Protective Services received more than 7,800 complaints of financial exploitation and more than 5,400 neglect complaints in 2015. This is why he championed a piece of legislation that creates a new category of crime for stealing from vulnerable adults. The law also creates harsher penalties and lengthens the statute of limitations, so prosecutors have more time to bring a case of elder abuse to court.
These scammers are often family members. It’s most disturbing, the AG remarked, when a supposed loved one is the abuser, especially when they are charged with their care and well-being. The stories can be horrifying, like the Redmond woman who constructed cages around her parents who both suffered from dementia to keep them from getting out of bed for several years. At the same time, she drained their bank accounts.
These vulnerable seniors should be in a protected environment, so they receive the care they need. In the case of the Redmond woman who imprisoned her parents, they could afford such care, but the daughter in charge of their finances didn’t want to spend it. It would’ve reduced her inheritance. The elderly couple was in that cage for six years.
Planning is critical to protecting yourself or your loved ones. Start with an Elder Law and estate planning attorney, who will be able to put a number of safeguards in place. For example, he or she can add alerts for bankers whenever there’s a significant financial or other change. You can designate a trustee or co-agent, which is a person outside of the family who acts as your consultant, so one person doesn’t have total control of all your affairs.
Washington’s AG says there’s hope the new law will help prevent at least some of the abuses.
“We can prosecute more cases and more successfully. And number two, once you do that you’re sending a message to individuals who may want to seek out and try to exploit vulnerable seniors that they will be prosecuted and they’ll face tougher sentences if convicted,” Ferguson said.
Reference: mynorthwest.com (April 12, 2017) “Washington state takes new steps to stem epidemic of elder abuse”