The legal field changes as you get older. Seniors have different legal concerns than those who are younger. If you’re a senior, or you’re taking care of a senior, it’s important to work with an attorney who has a deep understanding of elder law.
What is elder law?
Elder law focuses on a wide variety of issues, all of which are particular for the senior population. Some of their specialities include:
- Social security and disability claims
- Transferring of assets, especially when one enters a nursing home
- Estate planning
- Placement for long-term care in nursing homes and other elderly communities
- Health insurance issues for temporary and long-term care
- Age-related discrimination in the workplace
- Durable powers of attorney, “living will”, delegating decision-making
- Elder Abuse
Perhaps one of the most emotionally difficult aspects of elder law is elder abuse. While difficult to talk about, it’s important to know the signs of elder abuse so you can protect your loved ones.
Abusing a vulnerable person may seem like an unthinkable crime, yet the National Center on Elder Abuse reports a growing problem with exploitation. Shame, dementia and fear keep many victims silent. The number of victims isn’t known. The NCEA cites studies suggesting as many as 1 in 10 vulnerable older adults have been abused.
How Is Elder Abuse Defined?
Elder abuse is the intentional harm or neglect of an older adult. Abuse generally takes place where the older person is living, at home or in a care facility. The victim may be dependent on others, including the abuser, for care.
An abuser may be a caregiver, a family member, friend or professional healthcare worker. Both men and women are neglected and exploited. Every U.S. state has laws to prevent abuse.
What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse?
It’s not always easy to know if an elderly person is a victim. Victims may not want to talk about abuse. Some elders suffer from dementia and may be unable to communicate clearly. Many cases of abuse and neglect are reported by a person other than the victim. Here are some signs of different types of abuse.
Physical: Physical abuse is causing injury and pain, including slapping, hitting and restraining. Injuries such as bruises, abrasions, burns and broken bones are warning signs.
Neglect: Neglect is the failure to provide food, shelter, medical and basic care. Bedsores, weight loss and poor hygiene can result from neglect.
Financial: Financial exploitation is the unauthorized use or concealment of money, property or assets designated for the senior’s care. A sudden change in finances or drop in living standards could indicate exploitation.
Emotional: Emotional abuse is causing mental distress and pain, including intimidating and humiliating. Victims may become withdrawn or depressed. Abusers may threaten, insult or control.
Sexual: Non-consensual sexual contact is abuse. Bruising or bleeding in intimate areas, venereal disease and torn or stained clothing are warning signs.
Why should you hire an elder law attorney?
- Knowledge brings an all-encompassing approach. An elder law attorney knows all about the major issues that seniors face, such as housing, healthcare, financial health, and all the things that ensure or diminish a high quality of life. This knowledge brings a holistic approach to their legal counsel.
- Experience brings tools. If you’ve been specializing in one area for awhile, you have a variety of tools and techniques at your disposal. These can specifically meet the needs of their elderly client.
- They understand the elderly. Many physical and mental effects can set in as one ages. An experienced elder law attorney can empathize and take many of these into account as they provide advice.
- They have an established network. If someone specializes in elder law, then they most likely have a reliable network of elder care professionals, such as social workers, psychologists and caregivers.
- Elder law attorneys treat the elderly with respect. This goes into the empathy and understanding which makes elder law attorneys so valuable for seniors. Often, there are misconceptions about the elderly, such as competence and decision-making, that some lawyers will assume. An elder law attorney will bring the proper respect to best empower their client.
The most important thing to remember is that an elder law attorney focuses purely on this field. It’s far different than an attorney who merely dabbles in it, or who applies their knowledge of law in other areas to take on one of these cases. An elder law attorney focuses on a specific age and population.
We are experienced, compassionate elder law attorneys in Vancouver, WA. We hope we’ve conveyed the importance of hiring competent attorneys in this area. You can look at our elder law services to read more about what we offer.