One in 10 older Americans experience abuse each year, according to the Administration for Community Living. Though this is a shockingly high statistic, this issue is getting many people’s attention right now. Last October, President Trump signed the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act into law. In addition to federal and state elder abuse laws, this new legislation helps track and punish financially motivated telemarketing scams.
What kind of financially motivated scams are we talking about? These criminal enterprises range from “investment opportunities” specifically aimed at seniors, fake IRS robocalls threatening jail time and much, much more.
New Elder Abuse Laws Make It Easier to Prosecute Financial Scammers
The legislation is designed to ensure prosecution of those perpetrating scams against seniors, and provides enhanced penalties for these crimes. It also improves data collection methods to understand the true impact of elder abuse. In addition, these newest elder abuse laws will provide enhanced prevention programs and activities to avert future victimization of seniors. And finally, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and Justice Department must each appoint an elder justice coordinator.
This bill amends the federal criminal code to expand prohibited telemarketing fraud so it includes fraudulent or spammy emails, too. The law states: “A defendant convicted of telemarketing or email marketing fraud that targets or victimizes a person over age 55 is subject to an enhanced criminal penalty and mandatory forfeiture.” This is significant because it specifically addresses financial scams that target older Americans, unlike most other elder abuse laws. Scammers specifically seek out older people to victimize via robocalls, intimidating voice mails and email campaigns. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, other problems that elder abuse laws can protect seniors from include:
- Financial exploitation: A 2010 study found that financial mistreatment was the most commonly reported problem, affecting 5.2% of Americans over age 60.
- Emotional abuse: Another study found emotional abuse to be the most prevalent issue that long-term nursing home residents face.
- Neglect: Researchers say neglect is a serious issue for older Americans, both in long-term residential facilities and those living at home.
- Verbal mistreatment and sexual abuse: Sadly, these issues are also far too common (especially in nursing homes). However, state and federal elder abuse laws already mandate enhanced penalties for sexual crimes against older and functionally impaired adults.
State Elder Abuse Laws Focus on Increased Public Awareness, Law Enforcement Outreach
The federal government’s efforts to raise public awareness about elder abuse join many state-run outreach campaigns already set in motion. In fact, most states have their own elder abuse laws and programs on the books to address these issues. For example, the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation program supports elder abuse awareness education and prevention campaigns. The program trains law enforcement officers, health care providers, and other professionals how to recognize and respond to elder abuse.
The Administration on Aging (AoA) funds research to help increase public awareness about elder abuse and how to prevent it. The program also supports state and local prevention coalitions and multidisciplinary teams’ efforts to help enforce elder abuse laws nationwide.
Despite these efforts, elder abuse and neglect remain a widespread problem for many older Americans.
Last year, the Secretary of Health and Human Services warned that serious nursing home neglect and abuse often goes unreported. The HHS alert emphasized that elder abuse laws require the police to investigate serious nursing home abuse and neglect cases. Yet more than one in four serious cases today aren’t reported within two hours, which violates federal elder abuse laws. Legislators strengthened elder abuse laws in 2011 to include mandatory reporting requirements for nursing home residents with serious bodily injuries.
Today, anyone who suspects elder abuse in serious bodily injury cases must inform law enforcement in two hours or less. However, you have 24 hours to report suspected nursing home abuse cases that don’t involve serious bodily injuries. Failure to report these suspected crimes may result in a $300,000 fine, according to current federal elder abuse laws.
Expanding Elder Abuse Laws Beyond Residents In Long-Term Care Facilities
Elder abuse is not a well-understood issue in the United States, for several reasons. Determining which definition of elder abuse to use in research is complex. There’s no standard definition currently used nationwide or across disciplines. As a result, abuse researchers must determine how they define “elder” when it comes to protecting America’s most vulnerable citizens. Also, the NCEA explains that elder abuse research and prevention includes older persons facing various mental, physical, and social challenges. These researchers are conducting studies that may have significant legal, financial, and social consequences for older persons and their caregivers.
Despite these challenges, as America’s older population grows and we live increasingly longer lifespans, we must not ignore these issues.
Reporting A Suspected Violation Under Your State’s Elder Abuse Laws
Elder abuse laws don’t just protect vulnerable residents living in long-term care and nursing facilities. Adult Protective Services (APS) in every state will respond to elder abuse reports involving caregivers, in-home nurses and family members. Older Americans with disabilities are especially vulnerable to neglect and elder abuse issues. Non-verbal older Americans cannot ask for help (or, in some cases, identify their abusers). In those cases, a relative or friend can ask local law enforcement officials to investigate on their loved one’s behalf.
Common elder abuse or neglect signs may include:
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or marks
- Denying or minimizing injuries, or being hesitant to talk about them
- Weight loss (especially if it’s sudden or unexplained)
- Acting fearful when specific people are present
- Abrupt changes to wills, powers of attorney or beneficiaries
Being proactive on identifying and reporting suspected elder abuse or neglect is crucial. After notifying local police, family members should consult an elder abuse lawyer on how best to protect their loved ones. Lawyers are well-equipped to protect elder abuse victims’ rights and potentially prosecute cases individually in state or federal court.
How Elder Law Attorneys Can Grow Their Clientele
Elder abuse lawyers can get justice for America’s most vulnerable older citizens suffering acts of criminal negligence. Elder abuse attorneys often engage in ongoing legal education to prepare them for complex ethical issues involved in such cases. Since about 1 in 10 cases involve financial fraud or exploitation, elder abuse lawyers can help victims recoup those losses.
If you’re an Elder Law attorney, LeadingResponse can deliver qualified elder abuse leads in your area on a monthly basis. We engage potential clients online, screen them for quality and capture their contact information on our website, JusticeforElderAbuse.com. When you partner with LeadingResponse, we ensure that our client acquisition methods meet all your firm’s ethical and legal requirements. In addition to lead delivery in real-time, LeadingResponse provides two optional services to help improve client conversion and retention rates:
- Free Lead Management System (LMS) software. Our free and secure LMS software provides complete transparency during the lead intake process. You won’t have to download or install anything for LMS access — all you need is an internet connection and browser. Once you partner with us, your dedicated account manager will provide free LMS training during the LeadingResponse client on-boarding process. This service is optional, but firms that use the LMS report significantly higher client conversion and retention rates.
- U.S.-based call center staff to initiate contact, perform live transfers and get eRetainers signed. For an additional fee, call center agents can initiate contact calls and convert leads into signed retainers 24/7. With a 70% contact rate, our trained agents can answer questions, get eRetainers signed and perform live transfers.
Want to know what LeadingResponse can do for your firm? Contact us with your questions, and the right person will get back to you within one business day.