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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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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