The elderly are vulnerable, and as a result, are often soft targets for non-physical abuse. I refer to them as “silent abuses” because they are often difficult to identify, or worse, prove. Examples include undue influence, duress, coercion, mental abuse, and financial exploitation. Generally, a common predicate for most cases begins with a close, confidential relationship with another person, who is usually a relative or friend.
Ultimately, the advice is to be proactive. Ask questions. While you may not receive the answers you seek, pay close attention to the responses you are given. If it smells rotten, its usually rotten. Look for changes in your parent’s lifestyle and behavior. It speaks volumes. I cannot identify all the ways in which you might discover signs of abuse, but if you are perceptive, you’ll find it.
If you suspect that someone is living in squalor or is being neglected physically or mentally, you might consider contacting Adult Protective Services. They take these matters very seriously and will respond accordingly. Otherwise, we can assist by commencing a guardianship proceeding in Court.
In a guardianship proceeding, you will have the opportunity to present your case to a Court, and if successful, a guardian will be appointed to handle the financial and/or personal affairs of the individual. A guardian can be another family member but if the matter is contentious, an independent party might be appointed. Once a guardian is appointed, the assets of the individual can no longer be exploited, thereby ensuring that the individual is protected financially. If the individual has been neglected, she will be protected personally as well.