Every state has an agency that serves as a first responder when it comes to reporting financial elder abuse outside a long-term-care setting. And a separate long-term care ombudsman investigates the complaints of residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, personal care homes or other community living arrangements.
Here the Florida Department of Elder Affairs is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the elders in Florida. It works together with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Adult Protective Services and the Aging Network to protect disabled adults or elderly persons from abuse, neglect or exploitation. Services provided may include protective supervision, placement and in-home and community-based services. To report elder abuse in Florida call 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) or go online to www.elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/ report_abuse.php.
Not all states recognize financial elder abuse as a distinct crime, but instead focus on basic criminal laws. But in Florida the law may be getting stronger with the passage of new legislation during the current session. Locally, exploitation can be reported to the Gainesville Police Department at (352) 334-2400 or the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office at (352) 367- 4000. Of course if it is an emergency, call 911.
The growing number of cases crossing state lines presents additional challenges. Coordination among local law enforcement authorities in multiple
jurisdictions, both domestic and international, is difficult. In the federal government alone, as many as seven different agencies or departments can be involved.
Creating a team of those interested in the person’s welfare – estate planning attorney, elder law attorney, geriatric care manager, life-care planner, investment advisor, government benefits specialist,
home-accessibility specialist, accountant, household manager, bookkeeper and elder mediator – could be of great help.
The use of the elder’s general durable power of attorney (GDPOA) can also minimize the potential for elder financial abuse so long as the person appointed to act is a trusted individual. Another alternative is a funded revocable living trust (RLT). The RLT technique requires that title to the elder’s assets be held in the name of the trustee of the RLT during the elder’s lifetime. If these informal options for handling the finances of an incapacitated elder are unavailable or ineffective, it may be necessary to secure a court-appointed conservator for the elder. Elder financial abuse is a pervasive problem that impacts persons in all social classes and economic levels. Educating the general public, as well as the multidisciplinary professionals who serve our elders, is a critical first step toward stemming the
rising tide of elder abuse.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that will be presented in this newsletter by Sam W. Boone, Jr., a local attorney whose primary practice areas include elder law, estate planning, probate and trust administration. It is hoped that the information will be valuable for caregivers and family members dealing with issues related to elder law.
In the last issue we wrote about the growing epidemic of financial elder abuse. Now we are offering some remedies.
Sam W. Boone, Jr. is a Gainesville-based attorney practicing elder law and estate planning. He is past-president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys. To learn more about elder-law issues, go online to www. http://boonelaw.com, or call (352)- 374-8308.