Elder Law and Estate attorneys hear elder abuse horror stories daily. Many times the hurdles they face in having these cases prosecuted are ridiculous. One attorney complained that the biggest problem handling these cases is that most of them involve family members. George Johnson, a Paducah, Kentucky police detective sergeant said that it is complicated because when you have someone in a caretaker role and there’s a guardianship, they’re the one spending the money. He also noted that bank records can show patterns of behavior, but it’s difficult to prove any wrongdoing. Many victims often refuse to testify against a loved one, or do so only to later recant their testimony.The victims often cannot communicate, have diminished mental capacity or die.
Attorneys seldom receive support from the local authorities. Loved ones file complaints with the local police and will not receive a return phone call and also it unlikely an investigation will ensue. For many police departments, it is a matter of manpower and resources. Also, if the suspect of the abuse files a probate court matter, the district attorney’s office will more than likely drop its investigation.
The American Bar Association has not received enough credit for its work in trying to have these cases heard by a judge. The ABA has stressed the need for special units dedicated to elder abuse and training prosecutors on the kinds of crimes committed against the elderly and the particular issues the elderly may present as victims, improving victim aid services, educating the public and professionals, and forming multidisciplinary teams.
A recent study showed that the training of prosecutors is still lacking, only taking cases that they believe will result in conviction and finally, “systemic problems in the interplay between prosecutors, law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, nursing homes, and the roles each is to play.”
Many prosecutors are more concerned about having a winning record rather than seeking justice for the victim. This type of attitude only empowers the perpetrator, ensuring them no accountability.
We need to acknowledge attorneys like Jeff Lewin at http://www.lewinlaw.com and E. Nego Pile at http://www.pilelaw.com, located in the Greater Philadelphia area, for having the compassion to fight for the elderly. Elder Law and Estate attorneys are the unsung heroes of elder abuse.
As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.
Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.