When Carers Turn Bad – Abuse of the Elderly
4 Steps to prevent abuse of the elderly
Abuse of the elderly at the hands of their carers is often difficult to spot and hard to stop. The abuse may be hidden in plain sight, covered up by lies. Relatives and friends may feel powerless to prevent it, but should they? Here are some suggestions to consider.
Informal caring can lead to abuse of the elderly
Often the most difficult cases of abuse of the elderly to investigate happen when the relationship between carer and victim is an informal one. The abuse occurs within the person’s own home. Perhaps a neighbour or friend offers help with shopping or cleaning, or a local tradesperson or home help befriends a lonely individual. These people are Good Samaritans on the face of it but they could end up taking advantage of a vulnerable person.
Many of these relationships go on every day and are entirely innocent; but the situations can also provide the perfect cover for unscrupulous, manipulative, and abusive behaviour.
How does abuse of the elderly start?
The starting point for abuse of the elderly is often financial abuse. As trust develops between the individual and their carer normal restraints can break down. The elderly person may be encouraged to share details of bank card pin numbers or the carer may be allowed to become a signatory on an account. The abuser often increases physical contact and the social boundaries between the carer and the vulnerable person become blurred. If the elderly person becomes too emotionally attached they may find it difficult to refuse requests for money or other favours.
How to reduce abuse of the elderly
Here are some suggestions:
1. Understand the nature of the relationship.
If the neighbour or friend is providing support on a regular basis then the relationship should to be put on a more formal footing as soon as possible.
2. Document the care required.
Make a list of those things with which the elderly person requires assistance. This avoids confusion and makes it easier for family members to challenge behaviour they consider is unacceptable.
3. Set clear boundaries.
It is vital that both carers and the individuals they care for understand the limits of what each can expect of the other.
4. Put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney.
There should be a third party appointed with the necessary legal authority to help in overseeing arrangements such as managing finances so that if dishonest activity starts it can be quickly stopped.
Carers are sometimes the innocent victims of their own enthusiasm and unwittingly cause concern to relatives of the elderly person they are trying to help. This is can be the result of ignorance of their legal position and rights and responsibilities. All carers can benefit from training on legal issues.
“We train carers and vulnerable adults to avoid situations where allegations of abuse could arise. We’ll help you keep within the boundaries of appropriate action.”
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About the author
Rosamund Evans is a solicitor specialising in age and disability issues. Rosamund is a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and an accredited member of Solicitors For The Elderly. Rosamund provides a range of legal support through her membership services and personal consultations. These services are provided as part of the law practice of Barker Evans Private Client Law which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA No: 498553
This article does not represent legal advice and no responsibility is accepted for any action taken or not taken in consequence. Always seek independent legal advice before acting.
Image courtesy of flickr/JulieT/Seniors