By Jeffrey J. Downey, Attorney
Domestic violence knows no bounds. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, elders are especially vulnerable to physical, mental and financial abuse. They may be isolated from family and friends, have fewer financial resources, and be in poor health. As a result, they may be unable to defend themselves or seek help.
Understanding Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a form of domestic violence that specifically affects adults over the age of 60. According to the Virginia Code §63.2-100, elder abuse includes any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of an elderly person. It can also include abandonment or self-neglect. If you suspect your loved one is being abused, contact an elder abuse attorney to better understand the victims’ rights.
In Virginia, Abuse or Neglect of an incapacitated adult is a crime under Va. Code 18.2-369.
Under this code provision, abuse means (i) knowing and willful conduct that causes physical injury or pain or (ii) knowing and willful use of physical restraint, including confinement, as punishment, for convenience or as a substitute for treatment, except where such conduct or physical restraint, including confinement, is a part of care or treatment and is in furtherance of the health and safety of the incapacitated person.
Physical abuse can be defined as exerting force on an individual that results in injury, impairment, or physical pain. Activities including hitting, slapping, beating, pushing, pinching, shaking, burning, kicking, or striking the elderly are forms of physical harm which qualify for criminal proceedings under Virginia Code 18.2-369. Making contact with a person’s body even if it is only threatened might also lead to charges being filed against you depending upon how severe your actions were.
Virginia Code §18.2-369 prohibits emotional abuse of the elderly. Your victim may not understand what’s happening or give consent, and it could amount to crimes like rape in some cases where physical contact was unwanted but forced nudity occurs without any form of consummation (rape). It also includes taking sexually explicit photos that were unauthorized by either party involved – this would fall under PC368 which carries jail time up to 10 years depending on severity.
The Virginia Code 18.2-369 also criminalizes the financial exploitation of elders. Financial elder abuse can take many forms, such as stealing money or property, using an elder’s credit or ATM card without permission, forging an elder’s signature, or coercing an elder to sign a financial document. It also includes taking advantage of an elder’s trust to gain control of their finances. This can happen when a caregiver coerces an elder into giving them the power of attorney or access to their bank account. Financial exploitation also includes fraud, such as telemarketing scams or fraudulent home repair schemes.
Neglect is defined as the failure to provide the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. It can also include failure to protect an elder from health and safety hazards, such as leaving them in a hot car or failing to ensure their home is safe and free of trip hazards. Neglect can also be mental, such as isolating an elder from family and friends or failing to provide them with stimulating activities. It can be physical, like leaving an elder to lie in her own urine or feces until she develops pressure wounds or bed sores, explains nursing home attorney Jeffrey Downey. Malnutrition and dehydration can also be signs of neglect, especially where those conditions develop in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Abandonment is defined as the willful forsaking of an elder by someone who has assumed responsibility for their care. It can also include leaving an elder in a public place, such as a hospital or nursing home, without making arrangements for their care.
Self-neglect is defined as the failure to perform basic self-care tasks, such as eating or taking medications. It can also include hoarding, poor personal hygiene, and self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Self-neglect can be a sign of underlying mental health issues, such as dementia or depression.
If you have questions about elder neglect or abuse, call the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey for a free consultation. We have over 30 years’ experience representing victims of neglect and abuse.
The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey
8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810
Mclean, VA 22102