Elder Law encompasses many areas of law, with a focus on how those areas of law apply to elder clients. Elder Law includes estate planning, advance directives, planning for incapacity, social security, retirement benefits, and Medi-Cal. These issues can be complicated, interrelated and confusing. It is wise to seek assistance when trying to navigate them.
If you suspect that someone you know has been the victim of financial elder abuse, you should report it to the authorities. Contra Costa County’s Adult Protective Services (APS) and the District Attorney can and will investigate allegations of financial elder abuse. Schofield Law Group will help you through this process, and, if appropriate, help bring a civil case on the elder’s behalf. We encourage you to contact our office for a consultation.
For a list of East Bay resources available to elders and their loved ones, please click here.
Elder Abuse Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What is financial elder abuse?
A. Financial abuse occurs “when any person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult with the intent to wrongfully use or defraud, or who assists in doing so.”
Q. What is physical elder abuse?
A. This summary comes from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA): Physical abuse is force that causes injury or pain. Striking, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, or kicking are considered physical abuse. Abuse can also involve the inappropriate use of physical restraints, which include tie–downs or straps. Elders should not be given drugs to restrain them, unless these medications are necessary to treat their medical symptoms. If a nursing home or hospital patient is in severe pain, providing inadequate pain medication may also constitute elder abuse. Similarly, failing to administer prescribed drugs may be neglect or physical abuse. The symptoms of physical abuse are numerous. Some telltale signs include:
- bruises, especially in clusters or regular patterns in areas such as the neck or groin;
- black eyes, welts, lacerations, rope marks, bone fractures, broken bones, skull fractures, open wounds, cuts, punctures and untreated injuries in various stages of healing;
- burns (commonly on soles, palms, or buttocks);
- laboratory evidence of medication overdose or failure to administer prescribed drugs;
- an elder’s report of abuse; an elder’s sudden withdrawn behavior, or the refusal of the caretaker to allow visitors to see the elder alone.
Q. What are the warning signs of financial elder abuse?
A. Financial elder abuse takes many forms, for example:
- unauthorized access to an elder’s Social Security checks, pension payments, bank accounts or credit cards
- excessive charges for rent or for basic care or services
- improper use of power of attorney or fiduciary authority to alter an elder’s will, dispose of assets, or borrow money
- various fraudulent schemes, such as convincing the elder that her child has been injured and needs money, persuading the elder to buy something under false pretenses, telling the elder that she has won a fake prize, performing unsolicited work for the elder and demanding payment
Q. What is the problem with reverse mortgages, annuities and trust mills?
A. In the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people preying on seniors through the sale of improper reverse mortgages, annuities and trusts. Reverse mortgages sound like a great option for those with a lot of equity in their home but no cash, but they are rarely an economical option. Seniors need to be wary when someone tries to sell them annuities as part of their estate plan; often they are written in such a way that the senior will not see the benefit of their investment. It is not uncommon for trust mills — organizations without attorneys that generate generic trusts for unwitting clients — to try to sell these annuities as part of an estate plan. All of these options include expensive fees and don’t accomplish for the senior what they are intended to accomplish. Seniors interested in this option should consult the website for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD offers free counseling services to seniors considering reverse mortgages. Potential borrowers should never sign anything without first reviewing the document with either a HUD counselor, qualified legal professional, or both
Q. Where do I go if I suspect elder abuse?
A. If you suspect that someone you know has been the victim of financial elder abuse, you should report it to the authorities. Contra Costa County’s Adult Protective Services (APS) and the District Attorney can and will investigate allegations of Financial Elder Abuse. Steele, George, Schofield & McCormick will help you through this process, and, if appropriate, help bring a civil case on the elder’s behalf. We encourage you to contact our office for a consultation. In some circumstances, we will take cases on a contingency basis.
Long-Term Care Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is long-term care?
A. “Long-term care” is a generic term that refers to several different care options for people who no longer can live completely independently. People use the term to refer to in-home assistance, residential living facilities that do not provide medical care, assisted living facilities that provide a wide range of support, and skilled nursing facilities (“SNFs” or “nursing homes”) that provide around the clock nursing care. At this point in time, only SNFs accept Medi-Cal. In certain situations some in home care may also be covered by Medi-Cal, but that program is limited.
Q. How do I find good long-term care facilities?
A. There are many good resources for individual or family members looking for long term care options. In the Bay Area, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), (800) 474-1116, is a good place to start. John Muir Senior Services in Walnut Creek offers assistance, as well. State and local information resources can be accessed by calling (800) 510-2020, no matter what county it is that you live in. There are also placement locating services that are funded by the facilities that will locate options for you at no cost.
Q. How expensive is long-term care?
A. In a word, very. It depends upon where you live and what your level of need is. The following is just a ballpark guideline: In-home care services charge by the hour. 24-hour care in the home can be around $10,000 per month or more, depending upon what is included. Residential care is more in the range of $3,000 per month, depending upon the services and space provided. Assisted living can be $8,000–$9,000. Skilled nursing facilities are about $6,000 and up, if paid for privately.
Q. How do I pay for long-term care?
A. This is the big question. Most people don’t financially plan on living decades with expensive medical needs, but this is the reality for many families. Some people have long term care insurance, but once you are already in your 60s, long term care insurance is difficult to get and doesn’t cover many expenses. Public benefits like Medi-Cal are available for those who have no other resources. Veteran’s Benefits may help. But most people fall into the category of having to pay for this care out of their own resources. Needless to say, these expenses quickly deplete a nest egg.