The Task Force on Financial Crimes Against the Elderly estimates that roughly 30,000 seniors are subject to elder abuse in Maine. Spearheaded by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, the task force presented a lengthy report along with recommendations to help address this growing problem at a recent State House news conference.
According to the district attorney for Somerset and Kennebec Counties, the criminal justice system is failing the elderly, as cases often take too long to prosecute, leaving aged victims unable to attain restitution. One elderly resident who suffered from dementia was defrauded by a relative, but by the time the case was tried and the money returned, the victim had already passed away.
Maine elder abuse lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing know the challenges that lie ahead, considering the federal government offers no funding to help in the prevention or prosecution of such grievous crimes. The task force’s suggestions will be submitted to the Legislature, and public hearings will soon follow, hopefully triggering changes to state law.
Task force spotlights problems of financial exploitation
Mary Ann Lynch – a spokesperson for the court — says that the courts will take a thorough look at the task force recommendations in light of the serious nature of elder abuse.
The panel made the following recommendations:
- Elder abuse cases are given priority in the courts
- Financial exploitation of the elderly be made grounds for a legal protection order
- Additional training for law enforcement handling cases
- Larger staff to assist in the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases
- That the courts consider the advanced age of a victim when sentencing those who have defrauded the elderly
Thus far, the proposed bills are garnering bipartisan support in Maine – an encouraging sign. Task force members are expected to implore Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee and service on Appropriations, for assistance in securing federal funding.
“We are going to be seeking her assistance and other members of Congress to help with any grants that might be available for those kinds of positions,” says Mills.
“This is a great step forward, I think, to give the tools that are necessary for law enforcement to deal with this,” said Republican Sen. David Burns, a former state trooper who has personal experience handling crimes against the elderly.
Legal help is available
Seniors, whether they reside in an assisted living facility, nursing home or are being cared for by their relatives, deserve nothing but respect and dignity. Abuse can take many forms, from verbal berating and psychological abuse to hitting, restraining or even withholding adequate medical care, food, or access to friends and family.
When financial exploitation or abuse is suspected, it’s imperative to contact attorneys who are experienced in elder abuse law. At Hardy, Wolf & Downing, our team is available to review your case free of charge to investigate if legal action is warranted. To schedule a no-obligation consultation, please call our offices at 1-800-INJURED. We represent clients in the greater Portland, Lewistown, Bangor and Southern Maine areas.