Seniors are often one of the most overlooked groups in society. Seniors are vulnerable to abuse because of risk factors like social isolation and a lack of mobility.
Caregivers that make critical decisions or have access to a senior’s finances can take advantage of their position of power in a way that results in elder abuse and fraud. It’s essential to understand the prevalence behind elder abuse. This allows both seniors and their loved ones the ability to work with a Tampa elder abuse attorney and stop the harm early.
Statistics on Elder Abuse in Florida
Here are the troubling statistics on elder abuse in Florida:
- 1 in 10 seniors will experience elder abuse in their lifetime.
- Only about 7 percent of elder abuse gets reported to authorities.
- Two-thirds of elder abuse cases involve family members.
- Financial exploitation is a common cause of elder abuse.
- Victims of elder abuse have a 300 percent higher mortality rate than seniors living in safe environments.
- Elder abuse costs Americans billions of dollars annually.
Seniors are often subject to elder abuse because of social isolation and because of risk factors like physical and mental impairments. Isolation and disabilities may cause seniors to be unwilling or unable to speak out. They may even be unaware that the abuse is occurring or unable to articulate it to someone who is in a position to help.
Sadly, elder abuse can come from unexpected sources. Friends and family that have offered to care for a loved one can misuse their position of power. Even a court-appointed guardian can breach their fiduciary duty and take advantage of the senior who is entrusted to their care. It’s important to always be vigilant if you have a loved one that is a vulnerable senior.
Help for Victims of Elder Abuse in Florida
There are several resources available to victims of elder abuse. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) division of Adult Protective Services exists to help vulnerable adults who may be suffering from elder abuse. They can help investigate and assist with immediate steps to protect seniors who are victims of elder abuse and seniors who are likely to become victims of elder abuse.
Civil Action for Elder Abuse Based on Negligence, Recklessness or Intentional Misconduct
In addition to reporting to Adult Protective Services, you can bring an action against the responsible person or company based on negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct. If nursing home representatives fail in their duties based on reasonable standards of care, they may face civil liability to their victims.
Personal injury laws and Florida tort laws apply to nursing homes and assisted care facilities. Florida nursing homes and assisted care facilities must comply with state regulations that govern a wide range of details in their daily operations. If they don’t follow the rules, their failures may be strong evidence of personal injury tort liability for elder abuse.
Florida Nursing Home Bill of Rights
Florida has a bill of rights for seniors who live in nursing homes. The bill of rights is a detailed list of the level of care that nursing home facilities must provide for their residents. Rights include things like a safe environment, offering mobility and exercise on a regular basis, communication with others outside the facility, socialization, and religious liberty. If elder abuse violates the Florida nursing home bill of rights, you may make a report to the appropriate authorities.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty for Elder Abuse
A person who takes care of a vulnerable senior or manages their finances has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the senior that they care for. The decisions that they make for the senior must be what’s best for the senior instead of what’s easiest or best for the caretaker. When a caretaker breaches their fiduciary duty, they face liability for Florida elder abuse.
Criminal Charges for Elder Abuse in Florida
Elder abuse in Florida can be grounds for criminal charges. Abuse or neglect of an elder in Florida is a serious criminal offense. Criminal elder abuse has broad definitions. Here are some of the acts that qualify as criminal elder abuse in Florida:
- Intentionally inflicting emotional harm on a vulnerable senior
- Deliberately inflicting physical harm on a vulnerable senior
- Doing something on purpose that’s likely to cause bodily harm
- Doing something on purpose that’s likely to cause emotional harm
- Failing to take action to protect the senior’s care, supervision, and safety
- Not taking reasonable steps to protect the senior from abuse or exploitation by someone else
- Encouraging someone else to take actions that amount to elder abuse
- Assault and battery
- Theft and financial exploitation
Criminal sanctions for elder abuse can be quite severe. If you believe that your loved one’s circumstances meet the definition of criminal elder abuse, the criminal system can help you hold the wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Although restitution may be possible in a criminal proceeding, there are more remedies available in a civil action for Florida elder abuse. Elder abuse cases often require both criminal and civil remedies to achieve justice for the victim.
Rights If You’re a Victim of Elder Abuse in Florida
Victims of elder abuse in Florida have essential rights. Too often, elder abuse victims don’t know that they have rights. A victim of elder abuse deserves compensation, a remedy to ensure that their living environment is safe, and the protections of the criminal justice system.
One of the critical functions of an experienced Florida elder abuse attorney is to help you develop a plan to protect your loved one. Your loved one likely has both immediate and long-term needs. You may need to work quickly to help your loved one and preserve the evidence of what occurred. Our elder abuse attorneys have valuable training and experience that can help you respond appropriately when you suspect elder abuse and neglect.
Tampa Elder Abuse Attorneys
Are you concerned about a loved one? Do you worry that your loved one may be part of the epidemic of elder abuse? The team at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys is here to help. We can help you evaluate the situation and take immediate steps to respond.
We want you to understand all of the rights that your loved one has and what you can do to help. With an experienced team who has dedicated our professional careers to helping elder abuse victims in Tampa and throughout Florida, we take pride in offering competent, skilled, compassionate services to seniors and their families. Call us today to speak confidently with a member of our team.