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As this story in the Sun Herald shows, neglect of the elderly is on the rise. In my practice as an Elder Law attorney, I see elderly people who are neglected by not receiving proper food, medical care, or their prescription medicine. Legal intervention is often necessary to ensure their safety. Of course, the word “intervention” may scare elderly people because most seniors want to maintain their independence for as long as they are able to care for themselves, but the problem arises when they do not want to admit that they can no longer care for themselves. Often their decline will start with a fall. According to the statistics, one third of all people over the age of 65 will fall every year. After such a fall, it is important to assess the person’s living arrangement to determine if it is safe for him or her to continue to live alone. There are many agencies that provide sitters or varying levels of assistance to seniors, but someone needs to take charge to help make decisions on what level of care is appropriate for each situation.
Another problem that seniors face is the rising epidemic of poverty among the elderly. Millions of elderly people fall into poverty every year because of health-care expenditures. This problem is compounded when a family member who is the caregiver is also living off of the elderly person’s limited income. In the story of the Australian woman (see article in link), she and her daughter received $500 every two weeks in governmental benefits in Australia. This was the only income that her daughter, the elderly woman’s only caregiver, and her daughter’s children had coming into the household. Obviously, this is a situation that is ripe for abuse. Poverty is a problem that cannot always be solved, but sometimes early financial help may be possible with prior planning. Part of the planning should include evaluating long-term care insurance.
If anyone sees abuse or neglect of an elderly person, or if you are a caregiver who needs information about resources that are available to help you, please feel free to give me a call and I will try to help you or direct you to resources for help in such situations.
Kathy Brown van Zutphen is an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama and Mississippi. She focuses on the “elder law” areas of trusts, estates, and conservatorships. Additionally, she litigates lawsuits and represents small business owners as part of her legal practice. You can also reach her at her office: (228) 357-5227.