Elder law is a relatively new specialty within the professional expertise of litigation lawyers. As an emerging legal specialty, elder law focuses on the needs and planning for people who are advanced in years as well as the issues surrounding their families.
Until recently, elder abuse and elder discrimination often went unchecked simply because there were so few laws to protect the rights of the elderly. Fortunately, recent changes at the state and federal level have begin to put some elder laws into place. A Chicago litigation lawyer can now represent his clients more effectively because there are specific statutes and laws that can be applied to legal situations such as fraud, neglect or abuse of the elderly. Elder law lawyers will have an in-depth grasp of litigation as well as probate laws, making them particularly suited to successfully represent an older adult’s rights in court.
New Legal Issues As Our Country Ages
Aging and a longer lifespan has not always been an issue in our society. Health issues, financial concerns and other issues that are commonplace for today’s graying population were relatively rare just a few decades ago. Today, the field of elder law addresses issues such as Alzheimer’s disease planning, Dementia planning and guardianship and cognitive problems in seniors and adults with disabilities -to name a few.
One of the most prevalent problems for the oldest members of society is the potential for physical or emotional abuse by home health care providers and staff members at nursing, critical care, and assisted living facilities. Government offices at the national and local levels were reluctant to pass legislation on these issues, but Chicago elder law lawyers were instrumental in raising awareness of these issues and lobbying for change. Today, you can find community seminars, government agencies and college-level courses all addressing elder law issues.
What Does Elder Law Encompass?
Although there is no official designation for elder law, there are several issues that commonly fall under this term. Any kind of abuse or neglect of the elderly is considered an elder law issue, regardless of whether the abuse is at the hands of a relative or a paid caretaker. In order to fully represent a client in this situation, a litigation lawyer must work closely with the individual or his or her representative in order to establish a case. Because legal precedent is limited for these cases, an attorney faces impressive challenges.
Elder law also addresses scams, extortion schemes and other issues surrounding long term care, disposition of money, and end-of-life issues. A seasoned litigation lawyer who has handled elder law issues in the past can help elderly clients review their options and make sound choices.
If you or an older adult you love is facing a legal issue, it’s vital that you contact a litigation lawyer who practices in the field of elder law. Qualified and experienced elder law lawyers can answer your family’s questions and competently represent you or your loved one to ensure elder abuse or neglect isn’t part of your future.
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.
As part of the new health care reform bill, in March President Obama signed into law the Elder Justice Act. The act was initially introduced by Illinois representative Jan Schakowsky and took seven years to pass. The Elder Justice Act has been deemed “The most comprehensive federal legislation ever to combat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation” by the Elder Justice Coalition
The Elder Justice Act:
• Addresses the differences in state laws and practices that lead to significant disparities in prevention, protection, social services, law enforcement, and other inequities.
• Improves the quality of information and research related to elder abuse by developing research standards for studies.
• Studies how states investigate complaints of nursing facilities which receive federal funding.
• Establishes an Elder Justice Coordinating Council composed of representatives from various government agencies to make recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the coordination of activities of the Federal, State, local and private agencies and entities relating to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
• Establishes an Advisory Board on Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of stakeholders to enhance communication among private agencies, build consensus, and make recommendations to the Elder Justice Coordinating Council.
• Publishes a list of criminal acts by a nursing facility or its employee on a web site. The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act creates a national program of criminal background checks for persons.
• Funds a feasibility study on establishing a National Nurse Aide Registry.
• Authorizes grants to enhance long-term care staffing through training and recruitment with employee incentives.
• Provides $32.5 million (over 4 years) in grants to fund Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program to improve ombudsman effectiveness in addressing abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and an additional $40 million ($10 million annually) in training programs for national organizations and State long term care ombudsman programs.
• Penalizes any nursing facility which receives federal funding, such as Medicare, and does not immediately report any “reasonable suspicion of a crime” against a resident or patient to local law enforcement.
• Creates new Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Forensic Centers to develop expertise and standards for investigating elder abuse. The four stationary and six mobile centers will promote detection and increase the capacity to prosecute offenders.
• Requires the Attorney General to plan for prosecutions of elder abuse cases.
• Adult Protective Services (APS) funding. Provides $400 million ($100 million per year) in first time dedicated funding for adult protective services.
• Provides $100 million ($25 million annually) for state demonstration grants to test a variety of methods to improve APS.
If you or a loved one is having issues relating to elder abuse, financial exploitation or neglect, call our elder law attorneys for a free consultation, (312) 201-0900.