While it is well known that millions of senior citizens choose to retire to the Sunshine State, what is not as well known is that more and more of them are subjected to elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that in 2010, there were nearly six million elderly people nationwide who suffered abuse. Florida statistics from select counties with a large number of retirees show a growing number of such cases being reported.
What does Florida consider elder and dependent adult abuse?
The Florida statute addresses abuse and neglect of elders (those aged 60 years or older) and disabled adults. Abuse can come in a variety of forms:
Caretaker neglect — Abandonment of the elder or depriving the elder of adequate food, water, medicine, medical services, or anything else essential for the elder’s well-being
Self-neglect — Elderly or disabled adults often suffering from mental health problems who cannot care for themselves
Financial exploitation — Fiduciary abuse, theft or misappropriation of the elder’s assets
Physical abuse — Shaking, hitting or pushing an elder or disabled adult with the intent to cause injury or pain
Emotional abuse — Yelling, intimidation or threats with the intent to cause psychological trauma
Sexual abuse — Engaging in inappropriate touching, rape or other nonconsensual sexual acts
Elder abuse investigations may be triggered when a concerned party suspects something innocent is abuse. An adult child who has permission to make household purchases for the elder with the elder’s credit card may be suspected of financial exploitation. A distant relative may report a caregiver relative out of jealousy or fear of being cut out of an inheritance. An elder’s injury received from tripping and falling may lead another to erroneously conclude that the elder has been physically abused.
Regardless of how the investigation was triggered, the two most important things to keep in mind are that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and you should say nothing without first talking to experienced defense counsel.
To constitute elder or disabled adult abuse, the prosecutor must prove the alleged abuse and that the abuse was intentionally inflicted.