World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The theme this year is “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue”. The UN reports that 5-10 percent of older people worldwide may experience financial abuse. Here in Virginia, the Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services (“APS”) is charged with investigating reports of elder abuse, including acts of financial exploitation, and assisting seniors who may be victims of abuse and their families to obtain help. In particular, APS serves adults over the age of 60 and incapacitated adults over the age of 18.

According to APS, signs of financial exploitation may include the following: missing personal belongings, suspicious signatures, little to no understanding of one’s monthly income, many checks made payable to “Cash”, numerous unpaid bills, discrepancies in income tax returns, large withdrawals from accounts and a changed Will or power of attorney, particularly with the addition of non-family agents and beneficiaries or family members who are not the natural objects of the person’s bounty. For family and friends who begin to notice signs of financial exploitation, or even if you think you may be a victim yourself, a quick call to APS’s 24 hour hotline (1-888-832-3858) can save the day. APS may be able to intervene before too much serious trouble begins, may be able to recognize signs of incapacity that require legal action and, if necessary, notify local police of criminal wrongdoing. Reports can be made anonymously.

As practitioners within the elder law community, we also run across situations in which a family member expresses concern about how their loved one is being treated by a neighbor, caregiver or sometimes even other family members. Determining when it is appropriate to call APS to report suspected elder abuse in our clients can be a difficult dilemma, since we are not always able to see the evidence firsthand and sometimes our clients deny any wrongdoing or concerns. However, APS reports that there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from potential financial exploitation.

  1. Stay involved with friends, family and neighbors. Social isolation increases your risk for exploitation because the people who care about you are not around enough to notice you may be in trouble. Do not allow people into your home to provide care who are not licensed and had a criminal background check.
  2. Beware of scams of all kinds. They can range from in-person to internet to email or telephone solicitations for phony charities, requests for help from a bogus relative (someone pretending to be your grandchild for instance), bogus threats of audit or overdue taxes from the IRS (the IRS does not call you to talk about your income taxes), exclamations that you have just “won a prize” (almost always a total scam or solicitation to purchase something you do not need or want) or claims that your computer has a virus that they can fix for a fee (nothing wrong with your computer). DO NOT give out your personal information to anyone who asks for it; if it seems potentially legitimate, you initiate a call to the bank or agency using a trusted phone number (like the one on the back of your credit card) to verify that the person asking for the information is doing so legitimately. Also you should know that if you are scammed once you are more likely to be targeted again.
  3. Keep on top of your finances. If you need help with your finances, do not abdicate total responsibility. Ask lots of questions and review your account statements or have a trusted friend or family member help you do this. Shred documents with your personal information on it.
  4. Do not sign documents you do not understand, whether it is in relation to an investment opportunity or for the provision of goods or services. Ask questions about risks, all costs and fees and be sure that you can withstand a loss or the worst case scenario.
  5. Plan ahead for potential incapacity and work with trusted advisors who can assist you in making solid plans for the future and who can help you to choose agents who can assist you as well. A knowledgeable elder law attorney will be able to help you think through all the issues that may confront you as you age. Since everyone’s circumstances are different – from family to finances – one plan will not fit everyone. Work with trusted legal and financial advisors to craft a plan that works for you.

Remember June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Take some steps to protect yourself and those you love and give the attorneys at the Hook Law Center a call. We are here to help.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Moving North

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, why are shelter animals moving north from places in the south?

Kit Kat:  Well, it’s their best shot at not being euthanized. Warm weather places have a glut of animals in shelters that need homes. Warm weather and more daylight fosters more breeding and births. Shelters in the north, on the other hand, have the space and the people who are willing to adopt. So it’s a win for pets for sure! The number of animals which have had to be euthanized has declined dramatically since the 1970s when 20 million cats and dogs were put down. In 2011, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated the number of animals euthanized was down to about 2.6 million. In 2017, it has declined even further to 1.5 million. That’s especially good news for cats who account for 60% of those euthanized.

So how are the pets transported? Well, there are a variety of ways, including bus, car, vans, and even planes. One very active group is called Rescue Express, based in southern California. In one year, they have transported more than 10,000 animals to safety in other regions, mostly in states to the north, like Oregon and Washington. “Nearly a third of the 30,000 dogs and cats received by a Portland, Oregon coalition of six shelters in 2016 came from outside the area, including from Hawaii,” according to Karin Brulliard, author of The Washington Post article reviewed here.

A success story is May, a charcoal-and-white pit bull mix, who came from a shelter in Los Angeles County, California. She had passed one temperament test, but failed the second one. The tests are required for adoption. Rescue Express agreed to transport her to Eugene, Oregon, and another rescue group said they would find her a home. She was then placed at Northwest Dog Project. She lives in her own cottage along with 10-17 other dogs, depending on the need. They have piped-in music and even skylights. Quite a change from the overcrowded situation she came from. According to director, Emma Scott, May will be evaluated and receive training. She ‘already knew how to sit, and now we’re working on her leash manners. …We’ll do everything we can to make her as adoptable as we can.’ With all that, May can’t help but succeed and find her forever home! (Karen Brulliard, “From death row to adoption: Saving animals by car, van, bus, and even plane,” The Washington Post, (Animalia), May 13, 2017)

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