Elder Abuse Lawyers in Georgia
Instances of elder abuse are on the rise in Northern Georgia and throughout the state, prompting a recent meeting of the North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force in Rome, GA. Georgia Attorney General’s office special prosecutor Lyndie Freeman referred to the increase as an “epidemic” and Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome expressed her concern that these types of crimes were continuing to “grow and mushroom in a scary fashion.”
During the meeting, law enforcement and state officials from throughout the region began laying the necessary groundwork to establish a multijurisdictional effort to help combat the rising tide. The main goal of the task force is to work with state and local officials to develop ways of making prosecution of elder abuse cases easier and to provide tougher punishment for offenders. For many of the most vulnerable members of our community, this effort will come too late to prevent their own victimization.
What is Elder Abuse
While the commonsense definition of elder abuse may seem intuitive to most of us, legally there are many exploitative actions that may lead to civil or criminal penalties. Under Georgia law, actions that qualify as elder abuse may include: physical or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, or exploitation and neglect.
Financial abuse and exploitation of the elderly is of particular concern to officials and is one of the categories that has seen an exponential increase. Financial abuse isn’t always as simple as stealing money from the elderly victim. Using undue influence to gain access to the victim’s resources, by using a Power of Attorney for example, can also be elder abuse depending on the circumstances.
Elder abuse can often be difficult to detect given the decreased socialization and activity levels of the elderly. In cases of financial abuse, the victim may not even be aware they have been taken advantage of until the crime is well underway or, in unfortunate cases, the crime is not discovered until the heirs unravel the victim’s finances after their death. Abusers are also often in positions of power and can have close relationships with the victim, further complicating detection and prosecution. Common abusers include family members, caregivers or fiduciaries, all of which are in a position of inherent trust by the victim given their relationships.
Neglect, however, is the abuse we most commonly see in our practice of law. Nursing homes are often understaffed which leads to “understaffing”. Understaffing oftentimes is when a retirement community or assisted living facility cuts costs by not hiring enough caretakers. That in turn leads to inadequate care and treatment.
First and foremost, it is important to know that elder abuse of any kind is a crime. Whether it’s a nursing home attendant, a door to door salesman targeting and exploiting the elderly, a nurse, or even a family member, if you suspect someone has been the victim of a crime you should contact your local authorities. If the abuse is occurring in the setting of a healthcare facility or nursing home, there are also online reporting resources available.
In additional to criminal repercussions, there are civil remedies available for victims of elder abuse. We file suit on behalf of victims and families against the nursing care facilities or management companies of the facilities that knew or should have known that the abuse was occurring.
If your loved one has been the victim of elder abuse in any form you should speak with a licensed and qualified attorney familiar with elder abuse laws. Not many firms can say they have handled these types of cases. We can.