If you suspect that someone you care about has become the victim of elder abuse, there are a number of steps you should take. First, the local authorities should be contacted. Next, file a complaint with the state licensing agency. Finally, and most importantly, you should take the legal steps necessary to gain control over your loved one in order to remove him or her from the abusive situation.
This last step may sound obvious and easy; however, in many cases it is not as easy at it sounds. Unless your loved one has been declared incompetent, he or she retains the legal authority to make decisions regarding where to live and what to do with his or her finances. Sadly, many victims of elder abuse are too ashamed or afraid to admit the abuse and therefore do nothing to change the situation.
If you believe that intervention is necessary to protect your loved one, you may need to petition for guardianship or conservatorship. Although state laws differ somewhat, in most states a guardian has legal authority over the person of the ward, in this case your loved one, while a conservator has legal authority over the estate of the ward.
Without the legal authority granted by a guardianship or conservatorship, your hands may be tied. As guardian, however, you have the legal authority to decide where your loved one will live and what medical treatment he or she will receive. As conservator, you will have the legal authority to supervise all financial transactions carried out by your loved one. Consult with an elder law attorney if you believe that petitioning to become a guardian and/or conservator may be necessary.
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