Many of you are familiar with the name Casey Kasem. His voice brings about memories of American Top 40 radio and pop culture through the decades. Unfortunately, that name now conjures images of court battles, nursing homes, and a family torn apart. Prior to his passing, Casey Kasem’s health deteriorated due to the ill-effects of dementia. The story that ensued is a tragic one and one that can help instruct all of us.
Casey Kasem had previously named his daughter in his Health Care Power of Attorney but his current wife, suspected some level of abuse. His wife eventually took him out of a nursing home and brought him to Washington State from California. A judge granted conservatorship, or guardianship, to his daughter because of the unexplained disappearance of Casey. The battle continued as his wife and daughter fought in the courts regarding his end of life care and decision making, all the way until his death.
This may sound to you like a bizarre set of circumstances that can only be found in California and with the “rich and famous”. But the truth of the matter is that his wife’s actions, even if they were well intentioned, could amount to elder abuse. She took a man suffering from dementia and inexplicably removed him from his care setting and drove him to an unfamiliar place with new people. Such an experience could certainly be traumatic for anyone suffering from a similar condition. So how do you spot elder abuse?
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse Administration on Aging there can be generally two types of elder abuse, domestic elder abuse and institutional elder abuse. Domestic elder abuse is committed by someone with whom the elder has a special relationship such as a spouse, sibling, or child. Institutional elder abuse generally refers to abuse while the elder is in a residential facility and is committed by someone who has a contractual obligation to care for the person.
Some different categories of Elder Abuse include physical abuse, emotional, sexual, exploitation of funds or assets, neglect, and abandonment. It is important to know the signs of elder abuse and what to do if you suspect it. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse Administration on Aging the following are some signs:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
If you see any of these signs or suspect elder abuse call
- Call 1-800-91-PREVENT (917-7383); or,
- Contact the Local Adult Protective Services (APS)
You can prepare to avoid these situations by making sure that you have in place all of the pieces of a comprehensive estate plan starting with a revocable living trust, pour over will, financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will and HIPAA authorization form. A qualified estate planning attorney can assist you in making sure that your current documents are up to date and reflect your wishes.
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