Financial exploitation of elder adults has been coined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as "the crime of the 21st century." It amounts to billions of dollars lost each year, leaving vulnerable, elderly adults destitute and at risk of being discharged from their nursing homes for inability to pay.
Georgia law makes it illegal to act with specific intent to exploit a disabled adult or elder person. O.C.G.A. 30-5-8 makes exploitation of an elder adult a felony punishable by between 1 and 5 years in prison. However, even if restitution is ordered, it could take years before the matter is concluded, and it may not hold all responsible parties liable for the exploitation — particularly if the individual was a nursing home or assisted living facility resident.
The statute specifically says that no officer, administrator or board member at a long-term care facility may be held criminally liable for the actions of third parties convicted pursuant to this statute, but neither does it preempt a resident's right to pursue other remedies of compensation — in particular through the civil court system.
Recently, The New York Times reported on the issue, noting it's one that is likely to grow substantially in the years to come as the American population ages. Census figures indicate that between 2010 and 2050, the elder population is expected to balloon to nearly 84 million — nearly double its estimated population size in 2012.
What Makes Elderly Vulnerable
It's estimated that 1 in 8 Americans over 65 have Alzheimer's disease and nearly 20 percent of people over 70 have some form of cognitive impairment.
As our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers know from cases we've successfully handled, cognitive impairment — even mild cognitive impairment — can undercut a person's ability to sniff out a scam. Victims may be too ashamed or unaware to come forward about what happened. They may not make credible witnesses. Still, many of these cases are viable, and it may be possible to obtain results in both the criminal justice system, as well as in the civil justice system.
One example given by the CPFB involved a 77-year-old man who suffered from both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's who was persuaded by a church deacon to hand over authority to manage his finances and care. But instead of acting as a good shepherd, the deacon was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Over the course of 130 withdrawals over nine months, the deacon drained the elderly man's bank account, and he was threatened with discharge from the nursing home for nonpayment. Soon thereafter, he died at the facility. The deacon was later charged and convicted for his crimes, though the CFPB does not indicate whether the victim's estate ever recovered the money lost in the scam.
Nursing Home Responsibility
Considering how pervasive this problem is, nursing homes have a responsibility to train staffers to recognize, record, and report it. Failure to do so could be grounds for a civil lawsuit against the facility.
If you or a loved one have been victimized by elder financial abuse, our attorneys offer a free consultation for you to discuss your options for legal redress.