Many people need help with day-to-day living as they get older. Caregiving can be a difficult and sometimes thankless job, and unfortunately, some caregivers abuse or neglect the person they are supposed to care for.
However, whether it is the result of dementia, a misunderstanding, or the malicious actions of a friend or family member, sometimes caretakers who have done nothing wrong find themselves facing accusations of elder abuse. These accusations can destroy your reputation and lead to criminal charges, jail time, fines, and other penalties. Because of the potentially severe consequences, it is crucial to understand what happens if you are accused of elder abuse and what steps you should take to protect your rights and build a legal defense.
What Is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse happens when a caregiver or another person intentionally, knowingly, or negligently harms or puts a vulnerable older adult at risk of harm. Elder abuse can take several forms.
Neglect or Endangerment
A person may be guilty of negligence or endangerment if they fail to provide the necessary physical, emotional, and financial care an older person needs. For example, a caregiver who fails to provide food, shelter, and medical care may be guilty of neglect. A caregiver who leaves an older adult alone while running errands may be guilty of endangerment.
Elderly people often rely on caregivers or family members to handle their finances. A person who takes advantage of their access to a vulnerable adult’s finances to steal, embezzle, or misappropriate financial assets may be guilty of financial abuse.
Caregivers may also face penalties if they misuse their power of attorney or use an elderly person’s financial or personal information to commit fraud. For example, estate trustees who improperly transfer assets into their own name or a friend who talks an elderly person into making a risky investment could be guilty of financial abuse.
People who cause physical harm to elderly adults by denying necessary medical care or intentionally pushing, hitting, or restraining them may be guilty of physical abuse. Physical abuse can occur in the victim’s home, a skilled nursing facility, or an assisted living community. Because elderly people are more susceptible to injury than younger adults, sometimes injuries happen when no wrongdoing occurs.
People who intentionally or recklessly cause emotional harm to an older adult by yelling at them, calling them names, insulting them, threatening them, isolating or confining them, or subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation may be guilty of emotional abuse. Victims of emotional abuse may suffer from depression or withdraw from everyday activities.
What Happens After Someone Makes an Elder Abuse Accusation?
When someone notifies the authorities about potential elder abuse, law enforcement will investigate to determine whether criminal charges are appropriate. If law enforcement determines that you committed a crime, they may arrest you.
If the prosecutor files charges, you will receive a trial. If convicted, you may face substantial fines and a lengthy prison sentence. Additionally, the older adult or family members may file a civil lawsuit to collect compensation for any damages you caused.
Elder abuse accusations can cost you your reputation. They may also strain your relationships with friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers.
What Is the Penalty for Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse that causes serious harm to the elderly person can result in a second-degree felony charge. Abuse that does not cause serious harm can result in a third-degree felony charge. You may face a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of five to 15 years if convicted.
What Are the Penalties for Making a False Elder Abuse Claim?
Sometimes false accusations of elder abuse arise from misunderstandings. For example, a family member may notice bruises on a loved one from an accidental fall and think that the caretaker was physically abusive or negligent, even if the caretaker did not do anything wrong or the injuries resulted from an innocent mistake.
Sometimes family disputes or financial motives can lead to people knowingly filing false elder abuse claims. For example, a sibling who believes you are only taking care of an elderly parent because you are receiving gifts or a more significant share of the estate might falsely accuse you of stealing property or money from your parent.
Other times, people abusing an elderly person may falsely accuse you of the crime to cover their tracks. Sadly, false allegations also sometimes happen because an older person suffers from confusion caused by dementia or another mental health condition and may honestly believe that you did something wrong, even when no misconduct occurred.
People who mistakenly accuse someone of abuse genuinely they think is happening are usually immune from civil or criminal penalties. However, knowingly filing a false claim can result in a third-degree felony charge.
If convicted, the accuser could face a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison term of up to five years. Additionally, the Department of Children and Family Services can fine a person up to $10,000 for making false elder abuse accusations.
The specific penalties for false accusations vary depending on the facts of the case and the court’s discretion. You may pursue a civil lawsuit against the accuser to recover compensation for damages such as lost income and reputation.
What Should You Do If You Have Been Falsely Accused of Elder Abuse?
Because the consequences of a false accusation can be severe, it is essential to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if someone accuses you of elder abuse. Even if you know the allegations are false, the accuser may present evidence in court that makes you appear guilty. An attorney can help you navigate the legal system and build a strong defense.
Contact Mike G Law To Get the Defense You Deserve!
Don’t face elder abuse allegations alone. Take control of your case with the support of the experienced team at Mike G Law. Contact us now for a confidential consultation!