What to Do if You Believe Your Loved One is Being Exploited?
We all cherish our older loved ones. They provide warmth, love, and unconditional support. However, there are individuals within our society that prey on our older loved ones. Thus, the ultimate question arises: What are the proper steps to take if you suspect your loved one is being financially exploited? This article will address remedies and actions to prevent or mitigate harm done to an older loved one.
Exploitation of an older loved one often occurs in financial form, where a member of the elder’s family, someone associated with the elderly person, or a stranger takes advantage of the elder’s good nature, loneliness, or incapacity, to siphon funds from the elderly individual. A concerned person can report suspicions of financial abuse to Florida’s Department of Children and Family Services. The Department can provide protective services or emergency intervention. Also, if the Department suspects abuse, exploitation, or neglect, the Department must report such concerns to law enforcement. Five days after notification to law enforcement, the Department must send law enforcement a written report. Here, if law enforcement decides to conduct an investigation, it must report its findings within five days to the state attorney, who then decides whether to press charges. Exploitation and abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult are also crimes and should be reported directly to your local law enforcement agency.
Florida’s Adult Protective Services Act, Chapter 415, Florida Statutes, was enacted to assist vulnerable adults and protect those individuals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation by a relative, caregiver, or household member. The act provides for assistance and services for vulnerable adults, including protective services and supervision. The act also provides for criminal and civil penalties against perpetrators.
Any person may use the statewide toll-free telephone number to report known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult at any hour of the day or night, any day of the week. Adult Protective Services can be reached at:
Florida Relay 711 or
Report Online: https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/
Under Florida Statute, Section 825.1035, a person can seek and obtain an injunction for protection against exploitation of a vulnerable adult, without the need for an attorney. The statute provides that “the clerk of the circuit court shall assist the petitioner in filing an injunction for protection against exploitation of a vulnerable adult and any petition alleging a violation thereof.” The statute also provides a form for the petition.
In addition, the elderly person, or his or her guardian or personal representative, can sue the alleged exploiter for monetary damages. If the elderly person still possesses the right to sue, other parties must obtain consent from the elderly individual in order to file suit. If the elder lacks capacity, it may be necessary for the interested party to seek and obtain a guardianship of the elder. If there appears to be imminent danger that the physical or mental health or safety of the elder will be seriously impaired or that the elder’s property is in danger of being wasted, misappropriated, or lost unless immediate action is taken, an interested party may seek and obtain Emergency Temporary Guardianship of the Elder.
If you suspect that a loved one is being financially exploited, we encourage you to utilize the services outlined in this article and report elder exploitation and abuse to Adult Protective Services and law enforcement. We can also help. Call the Elder Law Center of Kirson and Fuller at 407-422-3017 to speak to one of our experienced attorneys, and we can better assess next steps to further protect your loved one.
R. Craig Harrison, Protecting the Elderly from Financial Exploitation: The Dilemma and Solution, Part II, Fla. B.J., July/August 2014, at 48