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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
forts between the specialized bar, health care providers (in counseling and vulnerability assessments), adult protective services and law enforcement, when mistreatment is suspected, could produce new ideas about prevention.
Depending on the laws of particular jurisdictions, several legal tools can be used to respond to elder mistreatment when it occurs. To stop physical or sexual abuse, a lawyer might need to obtain a civil order of protection to keep the perpetrator away from the victim or pursue an eviction action against an abusive tenant or adult child living with the victim. To combat financial exploitation, a lawyer might need to void a document or transaction because the victim signed it under duress or due to fraud or undue influence. The lawyer might need to help the victim revoke a power of attorney that is being misused or draft a power of attorney or trust in order to wrest control from a perpetrator. It might be necessary to seek to have a guardian or conservator appointed for an abuse victim in order to reduce or terminate the authority of the abuser. It might also be necessary to defend against the appointment of a guardian or conservator or pursue the appointment of an alternative guardian or conservator when the person seeking appointment is mistreating the older person. Civil lawyers also can pursue actions for damages in order to recover money that has been exploited or to make the victim whole for injuries by the perpetrator, and they can pursue actions against companies employing abusive caregivers for negligent hiring and inadequate supervision.
Research about the use of civil justice interventions and their effectiveness in preventing exploitation and other harm to elders should be jointly sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the Administration on Aging.
One of the few federal responses to elder mistreatment has come from the “aging network.” This term refers to a wide array of organizations and services established and funded through the Older Americans Act in part to address elder mistreatment. Title VII of the act supports elder rights programs, including the long-term care ombudsman, legal services, outreach, and elder abuse prevention efforts. The Title VII elder abuse prevention monies fund state units on aging to conduct prevention activities at the state level or to fund area agencies on aging to implement prevention activities at the local level.
Community collaborations have played an increasingly important role in recent years by suggesting interventions when serious elder mistreatment occurs. Some jurisdiction have created multidisciplinary teams (sometimes known as MDTs or M-Teams) composed of professionals and practitioners