Elder & Senior Abuse Investigations - Protecting Our Elderly
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office describes elder abuse as being the mistreatment of an elderly person by someone known to the senior. This includes financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Elder Abuse happens everywhere-in poor, middle class, and upper income households. It is a problem that has no demographic or ethnic boundaries. Family members, or close friends, of the senior are often the culprits of financial, physical, and emotional abuse, this abuse is often difficult to discover and to accept. Due to these close relationships it often makes discovery or disclosure of the abuse difficult.
If you suspect any family member, or loved one, may be the victim of financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect, we may be able to help. Contact us for a free consultation.
Elder death investigation is an area of expertise in which few investigators have experience. Studies and research for elder abuse and elder death investigation has been limited until recently. There are very limited medical forensic guidelines to follow when investigating the death of an elderly victim.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of knowledge regarding elder abuse by law enforcement, doctors, medical examiners, and the coroners, signs of potential elder abuse are most often over-looked or disregarded. I say disregarded because even professionals do not know the distinction between bruises and injuries that are due to natural aging and those caused by inflicted abuse.
When a child or domestic partner are examined for signs of abuse, a doctor, nurse, EMT, or law enforcement officer will look for certain medically established criteria to help confirm that abuse has taken place. These established tell-tale signs are called markers. These medical markers have been established over the last 30 years of research for child abuse and domestic violence. These medical markers have yet to be established for the elder abuse victim.
The National Research Center estimates that 80% of the necessary criteria that should be followed up on to discover elder abuse does not occur. There are many reasons why 80% of the cases are never investigated. Essentially the following are some of the causes:
- Poor training for the individuals that are essential in discovering elder abuse.
- Poor documentation by the necessary individuals, i.e., poor documentation in the patient's charts by the doctors, nurses, etc.
- Lack of accumulated information by the emergency response crew. Information such as the living conditions surrounding the victim at the time of death, a list of what medications were found at the location, names of the caregivers, etc. All this information is necessary to arouse suspicion of possible elder abuse.
- The coroner or medical examiner, in a survey by the National Research Center, indicates 90% of the coroners or medical examiners rated their caseload as being extremely heavy or overwhelming. Due to the overwhelming caseload most in the survey indicated they did very little to try and determine if unusual circumstances or abuse surrounded the elderly victim's death.
Because the elderly victim's doctors are very neglectful in updating and keeping medical files current, and the scene documentation regarding the patient's living conditions are scant at best, the medical examiner or coroner, do not conduct a toxicology report for drugs or poisons in the victim's system and an epidemiologist is not contacted to document any unusual bruising.
Sad, but true, many of the coroners or medical examiners believe that paying attention to elder abuse is not a major priority to them. A common belief is that if an elderly and feeble person is in a nursing home or assisted living facility they would be dying soon anyway. They feel it is more practical to focus their resources on victims that are younger or have a longer life ahead of them.
There are many scenarios of elder abuse deaths that can occur and be missed by good intentioned law enforcement and medical professionals.
If you had an elderly loved one that you believe was the victim of foul play, contact us and let us help. We offer free consultation.
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