If you work with senior citizens, you could be wrongfully accused of elder abuse.
It’s a lot more common than you think.
There are many laws that protect senior citizens from elder abuse.
It can come in many forms, from physical abuse to sexual, psychological, financial, neglect or discrimination. But caregivers are not perfect and sometimes make innocent mistakes. And other times, they do not make mistakes but are reported as abusers by someone who is jealous or seeks revenge against the caregiver.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at what might happen if wrongfully accused of elder abuse and how you can protect yourself.
Let’s get started …
Wrongfully Accused Of Elder Abuse
Perhaps you are a caregiver for an elderly person, and a jealous family member accuses you of stealing money or property because he is jealous that you are getting gifts from the elder or you are in her will.
Or perhaps an angry family member feels like you have too much control over the elder and her finances and wants to stop you from continuing. There are many scenarios where a vengeful person can take aim at a caregiver with whom they are at odds.
Believe it or not, court records have shown that some family members have actually put blame on caregivers just to cover up their own criminal activities. It happens.
There is also the situation where an elder has a financial problem and everyone assumes that you as the caregiver are responsible when you are not. Cases of mistaken identity can also cause problems for caregivers.
Just as there are laws protecting the elderly, there are also laws protecting you from false accusations of abuse. Hiring an attorney is the best way to fight false accusations against you. You can find an attorney experienced in the area of elder responsibility that is involved.
Areas of fraud
There are many kinds of elder abuse, including those with criminal designs like consumer scams, credit card scams, door-to-door solicitation, funeral, and cemetery fraud, home repair fraud, Medicare fraud, living trust “mills,” and telemarketing or direct mail fraud.
These are probably not the kinds of fraud you are being reported for, but if you are a caregiver with broad responsibilities, you should be aware of these dangers. You could be drawn into a situation that could result in harm to the elder in your care, and you could be blamed for it.
Elements of law
Before you can be convicted of financial elder abuse, a prosecutor must prove that you stole or embezzled the elder’s money or other property. In California, there are a variety of defenses to senior fraud and financial abuse that a good criminal attorney could present on your behalf.
The basic element in California law on theft is the intent. If an attorney can show you did not have the intent to deprive an elder of property, you would not be guilty of theft or embezzlement.
For example, you withdrew money from the elder’s account to buy her some clothes or fix a broken and dangerous sidewalk or repair an appliance.
Perhaps you invested some of the elder’s money in an opportunity you were sure would benefit her, but it just didn’t work out. Your intentions were good, even though the investment didn’t do as well as you had hoped. And those intentions are key to your defense.
In the case of physical care, you can be accused of abuse if the elder is injured, even if the injury was accidental. For example, bruises can result from just a small amount of pressure, due to the elder’s age and susceptibility more than any intentional force.
Having your name cleared
Finding the right attorney will help you clear your name. For criminal charges, you will need a criminal defense attorney. For civil matters, you will need an attorney who knows the specific area of law involved.
Financial suits should involve a lawyer familiar with finance and accounting. Injury suits should have an attorney experienced in dealing with medical records and medical personnel. There are attorneys who specialize in family law and those who specialize in elder law. The right attorney will be able to offer the counsel and advice you need for your particular situation.
Penalties for false claims
Many states and the U.S. Virgin Islands impose penalties against any person who intentionally files a report on elder abuse or other crimes that the person knows is false. In these states, the person making the false report can face jail time ranging from 90 days to five years, or face fines ranging from $500 to $5,000.
In Florida, the most severe penalties exist. In addition to the maximum jail time and fines, the Department of Children and Family Services can fine the person reporting up to $10,000. In six states including California, the reporter may be liable for civil penalties for any damages caused by the false report.