How to Protect a Vulnerable Adult or Elder from Abuse

Caretaker holding older mans hand, reassurance of safety, vulnerable adult concept.

Abuse risks are higher than ever for elders and other vulnerable adults. The increased isolation resulting from the pandemic worsens these prevalent risks considerably. If you are a senior or you have a loved one who is a vulnerable adult or elder, there are steps you can take for protection from elder abuse. The best strategy is to take action before any signs of abuse occur.

At The Law Office of Henry Nash in Rockville, Maryland, one of the primary goals in our elder law practice is protecting vulnerable elders and adults from abuse and exploitation through careful strategies that address the abuse risks they face. We also assist individuals and families with the full range of issues and concerns that arise in the later years of life.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse covers a broad range of conduct that includes physical, mental, and emotional harm, as well as financial manipulation that benefits the abuser. Criminal and civil laws in the State of Maryland address all types of elder abuse that may occur. The laws commonly use specific terms to describe particular kinds of conduct.

Elder abuse is generally understood to encompass physical and mental harm inflicted through malicious actions or inhumane treatment. It can include intimidation or humiliation that constitutes emotional or psychological harm.

Elder exploitation or elder financial exploitation involves conduct aimed at obtaining financial gain for the abuser by gaining access to the elder’s money or other assets. Financial exploitation includes many kinds of fraud perpetrated on elders by caregivers, family members, and strangers.

Elder neglect is another term used in elder abuse laws and discussions. This type of neglect results when a person intentionally deprives an elder of adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or medical treatment.

For yourself or your elder loved ones, understanding the nature of elder abuse is extremely important. Additional details about elder abuse and exploitation are included in our previous blog articles Understanding and Preventing Financial Exploitation of Elders and Is Your Loved One Suffering Elder Abuse? Know the Signs.

Protecting Against Elder Abuse and Exploitation in an Estate Plan

As people age, they may naturally experience health issues and cognitive issues. Progressive decline and isolation make elders especially vulnerable to personal and financial harm. The abuser often is a caregiver or family member who takes advantage of a situation in which no one else is looking out for the elder.

The most effective way to protect against potential elder abuse and exploitation is to work with an experienced elder law attorney to put a complete estate plan in place. The best time to take the initiative is even before the risks arise, but the protections can be put in place at any time.

Specific documents in an estate plan can provide protection from abuse and exploitation. Those documents include a durable financial power of attorney, advance health care directive, and a living trust.

A durable financial power of attorney and advance health care directive enable you to designate a person you trust to handle your finances and care in the event you become incapacitated temporarily or permanently. In that way, these documents prevent another person (whom you may not trust) from stepping in and taking control of your assets and care. The latter situation can create significant risks of abuse and exploitation.

A revocable living trust is another way that elders can protect property and financial assets. The elder retains full control over all assets in the trust, but if the elder becomes unable to manage the trust, a co-trustee designated by the elder assumes that responsibility. If you have a properly-structured living trust in your estate plan, you may not need a durable financial power of attorney.

Consulting with an experienced lawyer about your estate plan is absolutely essential. Your estate planning attorney learns the details about your family, personal, and financial circumstances, and then customizes your estate plan to your unique situation.

Helping A Vulnerable Adult in Potential Elder Abuse Situations

If you have a loved one in a situation that makes them vulnerable to elder abuse or financial exploitation, there are steps you can take to help. If the vulnerable adult or elder does not have an estate plan with documents that protect them, convincing the elder to seek help from an elder law attorney is an excellent approach for an elder who has the legal capacity to create a plan.

If the elder suffers from incapacity, Maryland guardianship proceedings may be a possibility. An experienced elder law attorney can answer questions about guardianships and assist with the proceedings if you decide to take that approach.

A supplemental needs trust — also called a special needs trust — is another tool that may provide assistance to an elder with disabilities. Establishing this type of trust requires specialized knowledge. You should consult with an elder law attorney if you think you or your loved one could benefit from having this kind of trust.

Talk With an Experienced Rockville, Maryland Estate Planning Attorney

Rockville attorney Henry Nash has extensive experience helping elders and their families navigate elder abuse concerns. We assist clients with all the complex issues and laws relating to elder law matters, including estate planning, trusts, and guardianships.

At The Law Office of Henry Nash, we work with clients in Rockville, throughout Montgomery County, and elsewhere in Maryland. We also help out-of-state clients who have loved ones residing in the state. If you have any questions about any of our services, we welcome you to call us at (301) 998-6111 or contact us through our online form.