Articles Posted in Atlanta Elder abuse

As Georgia elder abuse lawyers, we have heard all kinds of tragic stories of our older and vulnerable family members and neighbors being taken advantage of by all kinds of unscrupulous people. The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/ageing/projects/elder_abuse/en/) defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”, and unfortunately it happens in societies across the globe.

Many people think of elder abuse as only occurring in nursing homes. Abuse in nursing homes is part of the problem (see a previous post). However, Georgia’s state senators have recently been looking into the growing problem of elder abuse statewide according to news reports, both at nursing homes and in other types of situations. Perhaps even more tragic, and more uncomfortable to think about and confront, is that a lot of elder abuse occurs in our own homes and communities by family members or other trusted people close to the elderly victim.

And it can happen in different ways, too. The abuse is not always physical or even neglectful, sometimes it is financial. Another recent Georgia news story talked about an 80-year-old man suffering from dementia and the couple accused of duping him out of $500,000 in Centerville. Elderly people often suffer from these types of mental illnesses or are simply weaker and more dependent on others to help them, leaving them vulnerable.

As lawyers working in the field of elder abuse in Georgia, we know that many unscrupulous con artists constantly attempt to take advantage of the vulnerable. It is even more tragic to hear about scams visited upon the elderly, who have worked and lived their lives, taking care of their children, sometimes serving in our military… and they deserve to be taken care of and loved by their children and grandchildren. They do not deserve to have that love of family turned against them in a ruthless scheme. Unfortunately, that is what happens in so-called “grandparent scams”.

A “grandparent scam” works with a stranger calling the elderly person, pretending to be a grandchild in trouble. Often, these con artists use social media to try to gain personal information, starting the conversation on the phone with something generic, like “Hi it’s your favorite grandson!” hoping to get a name in response. They then claim to be in some kind of trouble, and tell the elderly person “not to tell mom and dad”, because they don’t want to worry them or get into trouble. Sometimes these schemes try to get the money sent out of the country – often to Mexico or another Latin American country. Other times, however, the scam remains in the U.S.

One instance connected to Georgia occurred earlier this year when an 84-year-old Seattle man was scammed by someone claiming to be his grandson, Ryan, stuck in a Georgia jail. The fake Ryan claimed he had been drinking and driving while attending a wedding in Georgia and had hit a pedestrian. He claimed to be in jail and asked for $4,300 to be sent for bail money. The worried grandfather told reporters in Seattle, “I felt so concerned about my grandson. I wanted to do the right thing to get him released and home as soon as possible.” Over the next several days, the grandfather sent more than $84,000 to help his “grandson” get out of what he thought was serious legal trouble in Georgia. Then the real Ryan, his actual 17-year-old grandson, called him and said he had been in Seattle the whole time and was in no trouble at all. Washington State’s Assistant Attorney General, Doug Walsh, said in response to this terrible case that there are millions of these scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission every year, and that hundreds of thousands of “grandparent scams” are attempted everyday across the country.scam2.jpg

Our Atlanta nursing home abuse attorneys know that some of our most vulnerable citizens are adults who–because of disability, age or both–need assistance in a personal care or nursing home. More alarm bells are now being raised regarding unlicensed homes that provide this sort of care. Unlicensed homes are hard for the state to track because they don’t get inspected. Personal care homes are particularly vulnerable, because unlike nursing homes, they do not provide medical care directly, so they often look like normal homes in residential neighborhoods.

Personal care homes must be licensed by the state and regularly inspected by Georgia’s Department of Community Health. But as costs have spiralled and many can’t afford the kind of care provided at regulated and licensed homes, a grey economy of unlicensed homes has popped up, with perhaps hundreds around the state of Georgia. It is not a problem Georgia faces alone.

Mary Twomey, co-director of the National Center for Elder Abuse, says these underground facilities are in many states, and that “These can be some of the most invisible citizens.” These unlicensed places are cheaper, but they are also shabbier and provide sub-par services. They sometimes devolve into nightmarish situations. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been doing investigative work on this subject, and has uncovered instances of cruel abuse and neglect. They have found cases of residents being beaten with belts and burned with curling irons, kept in basements with buckets for toilets, robbed of their public assistance or pension checks, and shuffled between homes to hide from the law. The penalties for being discovered by law enforcement were paltry to the point of being useless. The operators of these places would simply be given a month or two to get a license by the state.