There are disturbing similarities in two of the worst crimes against vulnerable victims: child abuse and elder abuse.
The very young and the very old often have difficulty in first protecting themselves and then providing coherent information to investigators trying to catch and prosecute those responsible. The abused in both cases often suffer injury, deprivation and, at times, terror because of their helplessness. Many times, these crimes happen because someone in charge doesn’t protect the abused from the perpetrators. And in both instances, it is difficult for investigators and therapists to get at the truth.
With the child and the elder, the complication may be an inability to understand the communication from an investigator. With the very elderly, often they become victims of theft or fraud due to a disability caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s. In other words, they lack the capacity to understand a transaction that is taking place and many times are unable to testify. Often, they just give their assets away on a whim, and that is not a crime.
When do caregivers need to take responsibility for protecting the elderly and their assets? And which family member will be the one in charge? That’s a tough question being argued in living rooms and courtrooms across the country (see “The Dills misfortune”). As you will see, this is a complex story with varying and conflicting sides regarding who should take responsibility for an elder and who should manage and reap the rewards of the estate.
A San Diego prosecutor in the area of elder abuse said he thinks this legal problem area will explode in the coming years, clogging up the courts with both civil and criminal cases. People will be living longer, and currently there’s no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the only cure for the problem is to get your wishes in writing now while you have your wits about you.