Social media photos pose privacy violation threat to care facility patients

On December 21, 2015, the Chicago Tribune posted an article about the rampant abuse of nursing home patients that is taking place on a digital canvas. According to ProPublica, there were at least 35 cases of nursing home and care facility workers posting embarrassing photos of elderly patients since 2012.

Aside from being especially heinous and despicable, the posting of these pictures and videos violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Ace as well as the patients’ right to privacy. While there are cases in which the posting of such photos led to criminal charges, there are also instances where aggressors were not held accountable for their actions.

These instances may predict an upsetting future threat of social media to patients’ safety and privacy if they are continually humiliated by staff members who should be trustworthy and compassionate. Abuse is by no means a new phenomenon in nursing home facilities, but social media shaming is a new animal when it comes to assisted living and elderly care homes.

If your loved one has suffered from any form of mistreatment or abuse in a Chicago nursing home, do not hesitate to contact an aggressive lawyer at Peck Ritchey, LLC who will pursue charges against the abuser to the fullest extent of the law. Call us at (855) 328-5787 today to let us begin seeking justice for your family.

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Tips From An Attorney Concentrating In Elder Law In Chicago: How To Protect Elderly Relatives

Elder Law ChicagoElder abuse is a common and serious problem for the elderly. Many elderly people can't fully take care of themselves, so they rely on hired strangers and relatives to help them with bathing, eating, cleaning and ensuring they take any required medication on time. However, this can sometimes become stressful and overwhelming to caretakers. While being stressed and overwhelmed over caregiver responsibilities is no excuse for elder abuse, it often happens anyway.

Tips From An Attorney Concentrating In Elder Law In Chicago: What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse can come in many forms. It can be physical, mental, financial or even sexual. Being neglected or abandoned can even be a form of elder abuse. It can be a one-time occurrence or it can become ongoing.

Tips From An Attorney Concentrating In Elder Law In Chicago: What To Watch Out For

When talking to your elderly relative, look for signs that they may be frightened or abused. This can include cowering when touched, unexplained bruises, becoming upset whenever the caregiver comes around or any other reaction that seems uncommon or unexplained. You should also look out for bedsores, missing money or a change in the elder's financial situation, poor hygiene or depression.

If you suspect that your relative is being abused or neglected, attorneys who concentrate in elder law in Chicago recommend that you remove the caregiver as soon as possible.

Tips From An Attorney Concentrating In Elder Law In Chicago: How To Fire A Caregiver

If you've hired a caregiver, this part is easy — just let them go. However, the details can take a little bit of planning. If you suspect serious abuse, you'll need to have a backup plan in place. The best thing you can do is tell the caregiver that you no longer need their assistance, effective immediately. If you've hired through an agency or care organization, make sure that you tell the people in charge why you're firing your caregiver. If there have been previous complaints, the agency should take care to drop the caregiver from their roster of approved employees to protect itself from a pricy lawsuit.

If your caregiver is a family member, you're likely going to need help from an attorney who concentrates in elder law in Chicago. You may need to file for emergency guardianship over your elderly loved one so you can keep the abusive caretaker away. This can cause a lot of family stress and strife so it's important to know what's going to happen before you begin. When you speak in front of a judge, arm yourself with the facts of the case and do your best to keep emotion out of your testimony. When the judge sees that you're truly looking out for your loved one, your outcome can be more favorable.

If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected, an attorney who concentrates in elder law in Chicago can help you determine what the best course of action is.

To learn more about Peck Ritchey or to contact us about issues related to elder law in Chicago, please visit our website or call (312) 201-0900.

 

 

 

 

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Conservatorship And Elder Law: Chicago Law Firms Can Help You Protect Your Loved Ones

Chicago Guardianship LawyerIt's a very common situation: Your elderly parents or grandparents simply cannot take care of themselves any longer. Perhaps your mother keeps forgetting to take her heart medication, or your grandfather has become so frail that he can't move around his home anymore. Perhaps the situation has even progressed as far as full-blown dementia. Whatever the specifics of the case may be, you've come to realize that your beloved relative needs someone to take care of her.

So what can be done about that? After all, it's not like you can just swoop in and take over a grown adult's affairs without consent. Luckily, there is a specific field of law that has provisions in place for this very situation called elder law. Chicago law firm Peck Ritchey has extensive experience in this field and can help you come up with a solution for how to care for your loved ones.

Conservatorship And Elder Law In Chicago

Obtaining control over an adult's affairs is known as guardianship or conservatorship. This goes a step further than a simple power of attorney. Conservatorship becomes appropriate only when an adult is determined to be disabled and completely unable to care for himself. There are several different levels of adult guardianship that may be appropriate depending on the unique situation.

It's important to know right at the outset what type of guardianship you would like to pursue. If full guardianship is necessary, then the guardian, or appointee, would have complete control over the elder's affairs, including medical and financial details. These duties can be shared with another competent adult as co-guardianship. If the situation does not require such full control, then a limited conservatorship may be the better option. The potential ward may only need help with financial matters, for example, or for making decisions about her medical care. It's also possible that you may only need to be the conservator for a short period, such as after an illness or surgery.

After you know what type of guardianship will be appropriate, your next job is to prove that your relative is unable to care for herself. The judge will not just take your word for it in such a serious matter; instead, you will need to consult a physician. That doctor will perform a thorough exam of your loved one and provide a physician's report that includes an explanation of whether he or she believes that the patient is incapacitated and why. Once you have this report, you can file a petition with the court.

What Happens Next?

After you've filed the petition, the judge in charge of the case will appoint a guardian ad litem. This is the term for a lawyer who will be responsible for representing the elder's rights in the case. The guardian ad litem will consult with his or her client in order to form another opinion over whether or not that person should be made a ward.

Copies of the petition will also be provided to the alleged ward and to your other relatives at least 14 days in advance of the court hearing. This way, no one can obtain conservatorship of a senior citizen without the knowledge of the rest of the family. This dramatically reduces the likelihood of elder abuse; for example, someone obtaining guardianship of a wealthy older person and then stealing all of the money.

During the court hearing, your job will be to convince the judge not only that your elderly relative is completely disabled, but that you would be an appropriate conservator. If you can state your case convincingly and have the corroborating opinions of both the guardian ad litem and the physician, then your request will most likely be granted.

Naturally, this process is more complicated than it sounds, and just like with any legal matter it requires scads of paperwork and forms to fill out correctly. And since the laws and regulations vary from state to state, it's always a good idea to consult with a specialist in elder law. Chicago area law firms will be able to assist you with guardianship cases in the state of Illinois and will be an invaluable resource to you. With the assistance of a qualified attorney, you can make sure that your elderly loved ones are protected. 

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3 Ways A Chicago Guardianship Lawyer Can Help Families

Chicago Elder Law LawyerGuardianship is a tricky subject for many families. It's difficult when it becomes clear that a loved one can no longer care for himself, especially if he was a self-sufficient adult at one time. If you're unsure what a Chicago guardianship lawyer can do, learn more about how they can help families throughout difficult times.

A Chicago Guardianship Lawyer Can Help Minors

The most commonly understood guardianship is when both parents of a minor child have died. If the parents have left a will, it should name who will be guardians of the child. If there was no will, a Chicago guardianship lawyer can help establish guardianship with the court. This can be straightforward if only one person steps forward, but more complicated if loved ones disagree on who would be the best guardian for the child.

Additionally, a Chicago guardianship lawyer can help grandparents or other loved ones step in if the parent is neglecting a minor child or even if a parent is a member of the military and needs to be deployed to a far away location. Guardianships do not sever the parent-child relationship and it's possible to relinquish guardianship for a limited time.

A Chicago Guardianship Lawyer Can Help The Mentally Ill

It's possible to have someone declared mentally ill and a Chicago guardianship lawyer can help loved ones assert control over their medical and financial decisions. One of the most famous cases of this type of situation was the case of Britney Spears a few years ago. She became even more famous when she shaved her head and attacked paparazzi with an umbrella, and people all over the world expressed concern over her behavior. In this case, her parents — specifically her father — realized she needed help and stepped in. He went to court and asked to be granted guardianship, though in California it was called a conservatorship. (The two terms are not completely legally interchangeable, so make sure to talk to an attorney if you need to understand the differences.)

This meant that Britney's father was legally responsible for her financial decisions, but he also decided where she lived and which doctors she should see. It's quite clear to anyone that this was the right decision for the Spears' family, as Britney just finished a successful run as a judge on the X Factor. It was unclear whether Britney's conservatorship would end any time in the near future. 

A Chicago Guardianship Lawyer Can Help Seniors

Lastly, a Chicago guardianship lawyer can help seniors if they're unable to make decisions for themselves, including medical and financial decisions. Seniors can be particularly susceptible to falling for financial scams and a guardianship can help protect their assets from this. Additionally, having a guardian can help ensure that seniors receive the medical care they need, especially if they're suffering from health problems like dementia or Alzheimer's. 

 

These are only three instances in which a Chicago guardianship lawyer can be of service. If you're not sure whether your situation requires this arrangement, contact Peck Ritchey. We can take a look at your specific situation and help you determine whether a guardianship could benefit your family.

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Understanding Elder Law In Chicago

As our population ages, more and more attention is being paid to elder law. Chicago area seniors and their families are seeking out these specialty lawyers and have come to rely on their expertise to guide them through all of the new experiences that come with aging, to help them plan for their golden years and to ensure their last wishes are honored.

But what is this fast-growing field of law, and do you really need a lawyer concentrating in elder law in Chicago?

What Is Elder Law?

Broadly, elder law is a legal practice that specializes in issues affecting older adults. The attorneys who specialize in elder law in Chicago help their clients plan for the future by developing legal solutions to financial, healthcare, relational and transactional needs. Almost any legal issue can fall under the scope of elder law, but firms that practice elder law in Chicago and elsewhere usually have strong experience in estate planning, long-term care planning and advance directives, wills, trusts, probate, guardianships, retirement planning, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs and many other issues that affect seniors like Alzheimer's and dementia, long-term disability, age discrimination and tax planning.

They can also advocate for seniors in tenant/landlord relations, nursing home disputes, in cases of elder abuse or neglect, and represent them in all legal matters, including litigation.

A Team Approach To Elder Law In Chicago

Elder law encompasses so many topics, it's nearly impossible to find one lawyer who is an expert in every situation. More likely, you will find firms of elder law attorneys like Peck Ritchey. Our firm practices elder law in Chicago and we have many qualified attorneys who have each practiced in a few specific areas. This allows us to offer many services to our clients from lawyers who have dedicated an enormous amount of time to very specific areas of expertise.

Additionally, elder law lawyers work closely with their senior clients and their family members to develop legal solutions that meet the clients' needs. There is never a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a team effort between the client, his family and the attorney to come to the best solution.

The Big Picture

A good elder law lawyer will be interested in the big picture of their clients' lives. They will take into account the client's finances, health and familial support to develop solutions that will provide a high quality of life for the rest of their clients' lives.

Not only that, these attorneys often have access to resources for the elderly and can help them find programs and support services that they need, such as home healthcare providers, assisted living facilities or nursing homes, and even local senior services.

When To Hire A Firm That Concentrates In Elder Law In Chicago

Hiring an elder law lawyer or firm is a good idea for any older adult who wants to plan ahead for his golden years by developing an estate plan or designing a healthcare directive. If your will needs updating or you want to protect your heirs from having to go through probate, an elder law firm can help.

In addition to planning services, a firm can help if you are having problems obtaining Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits.

If you suspect your elderly parents have been neglected by their caregivers or have been a victim of fraud, elder care lawyers can help you protect your parents' rights and if your parents are no longer able to care for themselves, an elder care lawyer can help you obtain a guardianship.

If you're in need of a firm that practices elder law in Chicago, contact the attorneys at Peck Ritchey, LLC. We provide litigation and transactional services for seniors covering all aspects of elder law in Chicago.

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Questions to Ask Elderly Relatives This Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us, it’s important to check in with family members. When visiting your parents or elderly relatives consider asking more than just how they are doing.

Do you know how to spot signs of elder abuse?

Are your elderly relatives able to live well on their own? Perhaps looking into obtaining a caretaker or moving them into a senior living facility should be considered for the future.

Ask about their routines, health and social interactions to get a better picture if they need more help in their day-to-day lives.

Finances may not be an easy topic of discussion but looking for clues in conversation could help you recognize signs of financial abuse. For example:

  • A new “friendship” with someone who has nothing in common with the older person.
  • Sudden changes in regular banking withdrawal activity.
  • Co-signing or guaranteeing a loan for someone else.

Do you know your family members’ end-of-life wishes?

Not only should you learn about their wishes but you should also find out if and where they are documented. If funeral arrangements have been prepared ahead of time, do the right people know where to find burial plot information, etc?

Take the opportunities over these next few months to examine how happy and healthy your older relatives’ lives really are. You can help avoid future emergencies by productively discussing their current and future living situations now.

If you find that your loved ones need assistance with updating their legal documents or are in need of a guardian, contact the elder law attorneys at Peck Ritchey.

Peck Ritchey concentrates in all aspects of probate, estate planning, guardianship, tax law, nursing home injuries, elder abuse and elder law. Our attorneys provide innovative approaches and successful solutions to meet your needs.

For a no-cost, 30 minute consultation call 312.201.0900.

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Haunted by Hoarding

Hoarders fail to recognize the dangers of their behavior. As the severity of the hoarding increases, others may have to step in and intervene.

How hoarding leads to self neglect:

  • Food preparation becomes difficult when appliances and kitchen are inaccessible or inoperable.
  • Extreme clutter is a safety hazard.
  • Debris in the bathroom may prevent proper hygiene.
  • Large quantities of “stuff” may make it difficult to find and properly dispense medications.

Hoarding is often coupled with isolation; therefore the older adult has few people checking in on their safety, they are not going to the doctor, etc.

Several legal issues can arise from hoarding:

  • Landlord may petition the court to evict a tenant when unsanitary conditions violate a lease;
  • Animal welfare may petition the court to remove abused or neglected animals and potentially press charges;
  • Public health department may appear before court to demand an order to bring property to code or to condemn the property.

The legal system can play a key role with appropriate intervention.

Judges recognize hoarding as a social and personal problem. Attorneys work together with social service providers to implement and support the necessary changes. They create an explicit plan that clarifies what changes in the home must occur and establish a mandated timeline to complete those changes.

Consider guardianship.

Peck Ritchey concentrates in all aspects of probate, estate planning, guardianship, tax law, elder abuse and elder law. Our attorneys provide innovative approaches and successful solutions to meet your needs and have extensive experience with hoarding cases.

To speak with an attorney about a hoarding-related issue call Peck Ritchey at 312.201.0900 and receive a 30-minute no-cost consultation.

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New IICLE® Press Publication: Litigating Disputed Estates, Trusts, Guardianships, and Charitable Bequests 2012 Edition

Peck Ritchey is pleased to announce the recent publication of Litigating Disputed Estates, Trusts, Guardianships, and Charitable Bequests 2012 Edition produced by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE®).

As you may be aware, Kerry R. Peck was a co-author for this publication. His work can be found in chapter 13 on Guardianship Litigation.

The Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting the professional development of Illinois attorneys through Illinois-focused practice guidance. Mr. Peck’s work on this project is on a volunteer basis.

If you have any questions about the book, please contact IICLE® Customer Service at 800-252-8062 or info@iicle.com.

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Elder Abuse is a Serious Issue That is Not Going Away

I was reading the news this week and was shocked to see an egregious case of elder abuse right in our backyard. Although as an elder law attorney I see cases of elder abuse every day, it is not often enough that they are publicized in the news.

The Chicago Sun Times reported that three siblings in Aurora, Illinois neglected their elderly mother to the point that when medical professionals evaluated her- her leg had to be amputated from Gangrene and  a 3-inch deep open wound was found in her back. All three children had a criminal history- ranging from drunk driving records to drug manufacturing.

The article’s author, Erika Wurst, sites the staggering statistics. Wurst writes, “more than 76,000 Illinois residents over the age of 60 are elder abuse victims. However, only 8,000 elderly victims are reported to the Elder Abuse and Neglect Program annually. “

Although in this case, the law has now stepped in to appoint a guardian and ensure this senior is protected, it still raises the question I always pose and have yet to receive an answer: How can we prevent our children from abusing their own parents?

Also, how can we ensure seniors in our community are provided with wellness checks and cases of elder abuse are prevented, or caught before it is too late? Recently, our firm joined a group that is aiming to do just that- ensure seniors who are living independently have the resources and support  to live a healthy life. The Chicago non-profit group is called “Lincoln Park Village” and they provide vetted volunteer and referral services to older adults such as: housekeeping, home health, wellness evaluations and transportation.

I appreciated this group’s mission because elder abuse can only be solved with a community effort. It takes a team of people: elder law attorneys, guardians,  geriatricians, social workers, nurses, case managers, home health agencies, and more to make sure each seniors well being is protected.

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Today’s Chicago Sun Times Alerts the Community About Financial Exploitation of the Elderly in Chicago

I just wanted to make readers aware of the Chicago Sun Times headline today: “Cops Warn of  ‘Sweetheart Scams.'” Reporter Lauren Fitzgerald interviewed several families in the city of Chicago whose older adult loved ones were swindled out of their savings by ‘Romanian Gypsies’.

Although the Chicago Sun Times is pushing this as ‘breaking news,’ as an elder law attorney I see it everyday and unfortunately, when the family is already in crisis mode. Clients come to our office after their father or grandfather has already been scammed out of thousands of dollars through gifts, forged checks, or false powers of attorney. As a caretaker of an older adult, always take into consideration that the “bad people” of the world may not always be in robbers garb, but could be the kind woman at church who has taken a recent interest in a widowed elderly man, or the maid who has access to the older adult’s home and can come and go as she pleases.  Independent seniors, simply looking for companionship, can be vulnerable to these attacks. Elder abuse comes in all shapes and sizes.

Always contact a Chicago elder attorney if you suspect financial exploitation. Even if financial exploitation has not occurred, contact a Chicago elder law attorney to offer ways to plan ahead to protect and monitor the older adult’s estate. Peck Ritchey was hired by the City of Chicago to help re-write the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act and has years of experience fighting financial exploitation of older adults in the courtroom.

For the full Chicago Sun Times Article, please click here.

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