California Caregiver Abuse Attorney for When Elder’s Rights are Violated
Many older adults fear losing their home and independence when they reach the age at which they can no longer care for themselves. Many believe that moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home is their only option. However, a growing movement, known as “aging in place,” provides an alternative option. When seniors age in place, they remain in their homes but are cared for by others, such as family members or an in-home caregiver. But hiring a caregiver carries the ever-present risk of elder abuse. Below, our California caregiver abuse attorney provides an overview of what caregiver abuse is, how to identify it, and how to select a reputable caregiver.
How Does Caregiver Abuse Occur? Our California Caregiver Abuse Attorney Explains
Caregiver abuse is a form of elder abuse that occurs when a person charged with caring for a senior — whether a friend, family member, or professional — harms the senior physically, psychologically, or financially. This type of elder abuse is not uncommon, as caregivers frequently become exasperated with those they serve and can easily lash out. Statistics also show that financial elder abuse by caregivers and other with easy access to a senior’s money and bank account increase during economic downturns like the one we are in right now. Caregivers and other in-home workers have extensive access to those seniors they serve, often without outside supervision, and can use that access to take advantage of the senior.
There is no single reason why caregivers abuse those for whom they care. In some cases, especially with professional caregivers, the caregiver may be overworked and underpaid, which can frequently lead to resentment and dehumanization of the victim. Sometimes the abuse may be the result of drug or alcohol use or mental illness. The caregiver may also have been exposed to abuse as a child, making him or her more likely to abuse others later in life.
There are generally three main types of elder abuse that can be perpetrated by caregivers: physical, psychological, and financial.
Physical Elder Abuse
Physical elder abuse occurs when the caregiver engages in actions that harm the senior physically or neglects the senior and causes equally severe physical harm. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Pressure wounds/bed sores
- Hitting, scratching, pushing, etc.
- Intentionally over- or under-medicating
- Unreasonably using physical restraints
- Sexual abuse
Physical elder abuse and neglect can be especially devastating, as most of its victims are already in a physically weakened state and may suffer underlying conditions that could exacerbate the effects of the abuse.
Psychological Elder Abuse
Psychological elder abuse is more difficult to detect than physical abuse, as it leaves no physical marks, and its effects may not manifest for months or years after it begins. It may be perpetrated by any of the following means, although this list is by no means exhaustive:
- Isolating the victim from friends or family members
- Humiliating the victim through taunts or insults
- Threatening the victim with physical harm
- Causing the victim to doubt his or her own sanity
- Coercing the victim into doing things he or she would not otherwise do
Because psychological elder abuse can often be challenging to identify, you may want to consider speaking to a California caregiver abuse attorney if you suspect it is occurring.
Financial Elder Abuse
Financial elder abuse occurs when the caregiver misappropriates the victim’s money or possessions for the abuser’s benefit. It can happen in a variety of ways, including:
- Theft of cash, checks, or personal belongings
- Identity theft
- Fraud, such as securities fraud or annuity fraud
- Undue influence
This type of elder abuse can have severe repercussions, as the loss of assets can significantly diminish the victim’s quality of life.
What Your California Caregiver Abuse Attorney Will Look For
It is not always easy to prove that caregiver abuse is occurring since many abusers are experts at hiding their misdeeds, and behavior that may look like abuse may have a more innocent explanation. Elder law attorneys are very experienced in investigating caregiver abuse claims and identifying the red flags that indicate that it is occurring. If you decide to hire a California caregiver abuse attorney to analyze your case, she may consider the following to be evidence of caregiver abuse:
- The presence of physical injuries: Certain types of physical injuries are often strong evidence of abuse, such as bedsores, wounds around the wrists from the use of restraints, injuries to the sexual organs, and repeated injuries of the same type
- Nervousness or intimidation around the caregiver: Nervousness to speak or intimidation around a particular person — especially a caregiver — may indicate that the elder is afraid of that individual
- The caregiver speaks too much on behalf of the elder: A caregiver who speaks much more than the elder or even prevents the elder from speaking may be evidence that the caregiver is afraid that the elder may talk about the abuse they’ve suffered at the caregiver’s hands
- Unusual gifts to the caregiver: Unusual gifts to the caregiver, such as leaving the caregiver a substantial bequest in his or her will, may indicate that the elder is a victim of undue influence
- Concern of family and friends: While circumstantial, concerns raised by family and friends who know the elder well can often be the tip of the iceberg when uncovering further evidence of elder abuse
Every situation is different, however. If you suspect that someone you care about may be the victim of caregiver abuse, you should take action as soon as possible to minimize any further harm.
Tips for Hiring a Reputable Caregiver
The best way to avoid caregiver abuse is to prevent it by hiring an experienced, compassionate, and professional caregiver. When hiring a caregiver, make sure to keep the following tips in mind:
- Determine what the candidate’s level of skill is and the services they will be able to perform
- Ensure that the candidate has plenty of experience caring for individuals with similar needs
- Nail down the details — what will the candidate’s schedule be? How much will he or she be paid? Does he or she have reliable transportation?
- Conduct a background check to rule out individuals with criminal records
- Require that the candidate provide referrals from previous clients and contact them to confirm details
- Never, ever grant a Power of Attorney to a caregiver.
Statistics & Insights Into Caregiver Abuse in California
Caregiving is a rapidly growing industry and is estimated to continue growing as the American population ages. There are two primary types of caregivers — informal caregivers (those who provide their services to friends and family members free of charge) and formal caregivers (those who are paid to provide caregiving services). While most caregivers of both types provide exemplary service, abuse of elders by caregivers is, unfortunately, a real threat. Friends and family members of vulnerable elder adults should consider contacting our San Francisco elder abuse lawyers.
How Many Caregivers Are There?
The Family Caregiver Alliance tracks a wealth of caregiver data from a variety of sources. According to the latest figures cited regarding informal caregivers, approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or over in the last 12 months. The majority of caregivers (about 82%) care for only one adult, while 15% care for two adults, and 3% care for three or more adults. About 15.7 million adult family caregivers provide care for someone who has Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related illness.
Caregivers and the clients they serve are overwhelmingly female. Roughly 65% of care recipients are female, while over 75% of caregivers are female. Female caregivers also spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers. The average age of all caregivers is 49.2 years old. About 48% of caregivers are 18-49 years old, while 34% are over the age of 65. Adult caregivers self-identified their races/ethnicities as 62% white, 13% African-American, 17% Hispanic, and 6% Asian-American. About 9% of caregivers identify as LGBTQ+.
Relationships Between Caregivers and Recipients
The vast majority of caregivers provide care to family members. Roughly 42% care for a parent, 14% care for a child, 7% care for a parent-in-law, and 7% care for a grandparent or grandparent-in-law. Roughly 15% care for a friend, neighbor, or other non-relative.
The Most and Least Common Types of Caregiver Abuse
It is difficult to nail down the most common forms of caregiver abuse with precision, as the overwhelming majority of elder abuse goes unreported. However, assuming that caregivers commit abuse at roughly the same rates as the general population, Department of Justice (DOJ) data may provide some insight into the most and least common types of caregiver abuse. According to the DOJ, the following percentages of elder adults experience the following types of abuse:
1. Financial abuse and exploitation (5.2%)
2. Caregiver neglect (5.1%)
3. Psychological abuse (4.6%)
4. Physical abuse (1.6%)
5. Sexual abuse (0.6%)
Overall, at least 10% of adults aged 65 and over will experience some form of elder abuse in a given year, with some adults experiencing more than one type of abuse.
Speak to Our San Francisco Elder Abuse Lawyers if You Suspect Caregiver Abuse
If you suspect that someone you care about is the victim of caregiver abuse, you should consider speaking to an attorney to go over your options. For more information, please contact the San Francisco elder abuse lawyers at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).