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The Aging of the Commonwealth and Elder Abuse Concerns

Pennsylvania’s population is aging. The House Aging and Adult Older Services Committee reported that there are 2.7 million people age 60 or older and that figure will exceed 3.6 million by 2030.  Older Pennsylvanians age 60 or older comprise 21% of our Commonwealth’s population, but by 2030 they will be 25% of our population.

By law, any person aged 60 or older is considered an “older adult” or “elder”.

The elder community is an increasingly vulnerable population, often requiring protective services. Due to raised public awareness of this need, state officials and law enforcement, in conjunction with Aging Protective Services, have strengthened protections for seniors, increased penalties for elder abuse violations and increased inter-agency cooperation leading to prosecutions.

How is elder abuse defined?

Elder abuse falls generally into one of four categories:

  • Abandonment — deserting an elder in one’s care
  • Abuse — this generally covers both physical and mental mistreatment, including unreasonable confinement, deliberate  infliction of  injury, intimidation or punishment resulting in physical harm, pain or mental anguish, or willful deprivation of goods or services necessary for an elder’s physical or mental health, or rape, sexual abuse or harassment
  • Exploitation — this is usually financial exploitation or fiduciary abuse where a caretaker, a family member or another person helps themselves to an elder’s financial resources without the elder’s informed consent or through threats, coercion or misrepresentation
  • Neglect — the failure of a caretaker or another to provide goods or services essential to avoid a clear and serious threat to the physical or mental health of an elder

Elder abuse is a serious crime and should be taken seriously by those charged with the protection of our elderly population. However, not every elder abuse charge is legitimate. Where a caregiver is tired and an elder is injured due to an accident occurring during a moment of inattention — that is not necessarily abuse. Sometimes a family member follows an elderly parent’s instructions regarding the parent’s bank account, yet when the elderly parent is questioned by police and doesn’t recall directing her daughter to withdraw funds, this is wrongly interpreted as financial exploitation. Sometimes police investigate claims of abuse and exploitation due to baseless reports by jealous relatives who feel excluded and fear losing financial benefits, gifts and inheritance.

Mistakes and misunderstandings often can lead to false accusations of elder abuse. If you or someone you love has been falsely accused of elder abuse, contact a Reading attorney with decades of experience in the criminal justice system, who can mount an aggressive defense against baseless charges.

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