Elder abuse and neglect lawyers are happy to report that several nursing homes in the U.S. are now offering solace to victims of senior abuse. To combat the alarmingly high occurrence of emotional, physical, and financial abuse of seniors, several nursing homes are creating shelters within their facilities to provide emergency short-term housing and healthcare to those victims.
In 2005, the Hebrew Home in New York opened the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention. This was the nation’s first comprehensive elder abuse shelter, serving seniors 60 years of age and older within an existing long-term care facility. The Weinberg Center integrates the abuse victims with the rest of the Hebrew Home’s long-term community. The seniors are therefore placed in the appropriate community (dementia patients in memory care, victims with broken bones into rehab units, etc), instead of having to be isolated on their own floor or wing.
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Victims are referred to the Weinberg Center by ER staff, police officers, or social service agents. It also offers specialty training to people in unique positions to recognize and identify senior abuse, such as doormen, meal delivery staff, or clergy members. For example, a doorman is responsible for knowing who enters the residence and when, and through training, would be able to spot a relative who visits the senior only on days their disability check arrives in the mail. The Center also retains attorneys who work to retrieve stolen money or help remove an abusive person from the home of the victim.
To date, at least six other facilities have instituted similar programs, one of which is at Crest View Senior Communities in Minnesota. The CEO of Crest View stated that it is important for neighbors and all family members to stay alert to red flags and patterns associated with abuse. An elderly person may, for example, as a neighbor to take his wallet or check book for safe keeping, or may suddenly talk about having trouble affording certain items. Similar changes in behavior that may indicate financial abuse will be sudden, not gradual.
The sad reality is that much of the financial abuse inflicted upon our nation’s elders is carried out by their own relatives, often by their children with substance abuse disorders or undiagnosed emotional conditions. Some family members may try to justify their actions by claiming that they were entitled to the money, saying they were going to inherit it anyway.
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The CEO of the Hebrew Home stated that about two million Americans abuse their elderly relatives. He stated that common scenarios include children cashing in their parent’s social security checks and stealing money directly from bank accounts. The MetLife Mature Market Institute studied elder financial abuse and found that, in 2011, senior victims lost nearly $3 billion.
Too often, abused seniors do not seek help because they feel guilty or embarrassed, especially in those cases where the abuser is their spouse, child or trusted individual. Additionally, there may be a higher percentage of abuse among seniors with cognitive conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. Cognitive disabilities render patients more vulnerable and susceptible to crimes. Some may not even remember abuse is occurring when you ask them. This is why it is so imperative to keep a watchful eye on those at risk, and to contact local authorities if you suspect any mistreatment is occurring.
The Weinberg Center and others like it provide a full range of healthcare services including safe harbors, emotional support, legal advocacy, and psychological counseling. Home and support services are available to ensure a safe and successful transition back to their own homes or alternate housing. Admission to the Weinberg Center is always offered regardless of ability to pay. During its first two years, more than 9,500 physicians, nurses, doormen, clergy, banking personnel, police officers, and other community members attended the Center’s training programs.
Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins applaud the efforts of the Hebrew Home and others like it throughout the country. Through increased legal advocacy and public awareness, we can curtail the abuse of our country’s most vulnerable citizens. Our attorneys have decades of experience working on behalf of victimized seniors and their families, and can ensure you will receive the largest settlement and best representation possible.