Elderly people are often dependent and defenseless. As a result, they are often mistreated by those who are supposed to care for them. Elder abuse law is legislation designed to protect the elderly and to punish those who are guilty of mistreatment. In the United States, the problem and the laws are taken very seriously. All states have a body of elder abuse law.
When many people think of elder abuse and elder abuse laws, they think of issues relating to nursing homes. Although elder abuse laws do apply to the actions taken in these facilities, the laws also cover a wider range. In-home care professionals, medical facilities, and family members can also be regulated by these laws.
One of the issues that elder abuse law seeks to address is neglect. Those who assume the responsibility of caring for an elderly person are held to their commitments by law. A person or facility can be liable for neglect if it can be proven that an elderly person in its care suffered. In most cases, suffering is not limited to physical pain, though this is obviously included. Actions can also be deemed negligent if they result in mental and emotional suffering.
Elder abuse law also commonly addresses financial exploitation. It is generally against the law to take advantage of an elderly person financially. There are many ways that people do this. Some people trick or force elderly people to give them money. Others may have elderly people sign documents, such as a power of attorney, under false pretenses.
Many governments make efforts to make legal representation available to the elderly, despite their financial circumstances. There are often agencies and organizations devoted to protecting the rights and welfare of elderly people. There are also attorneys who specialize in elder abuse law. They may serve the elderly people who are mistreated or they may serve the families of elderly. Elder abuse cases and the damage awards that may result often are not finalized until after the mistreated individual is deceased.
Elder abuse law is not always concerned with addressing or preventing malicious behavior. In some cases, legislation deals with regulations deeming how the elderly are to be cared for and how the professionals and facilities that care for them are to conduct themselves. An example may be a law that requires caregivers to receive vaccinations for illnesses to which the elderly are particularly vulnerable.