According to the article, on May 3, 2013 Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 78 into law, enhancing Georgia’s criminal code and the Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act to protect Georgia’s seniors.
The Risk of Abuse
The elderly are vulnerable to financial and physical abuse not only because of diminished capacity but also as a result of undue influence. Even a mentally competent person can suffer from domination, trickery or a combination of both, and the elderly are particularly at risk. Seniors – especially the widowed – are often lonely, which also opens the door for fraud. Add even the slightest amount of diminished capacity into the mix, and the situation is ripe for abuse.
In my practice, I have come across seniors who have given money to their caretakers, promptly forgotten, and later given the gift again (much to the caretaker’s delight); seniors tricked into changing phone providers and then charged exorbitant fees for discontinuing the expensive new service (a scam called slamming); and seniors fed pharmaceuticals causing drowsiness and then robbed by home health aids over a period of months. I have seen caretakers help themselves to groceries and other goods on their client’s credit card. I even remember my grandmother getting a call from someone saying he was from the bank and he needed her account number to verify a transaction. Months passed before someone realized that several hundred dollars had disappeared from her account each month.
Hedging the Risk
As the baby boomers retire and our population continues to age, these problems will become more and more prevalent. In my opinion, if there is even the slightest chance or the appearance of impropriety, caregivers and other family members should avoid taking any hand outs from vulnerable seniors. The fact that seniors are often unwilling to accept or admit their own vulnerability does not help. Still, the best defense is good planning. If planning falls short, criminal and civil remedies are available, and I am glad to see Georgia take a proactive stance to protect our seniors.
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