Elder abuse, both physical and financial, is indeed a major issue that is often under reported in this country. It has been estimated by the California Attorney General that upwards of 200,000 elderly Californians are abused each year.
Particularly vulnerable are those with some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Due to media coverage and money, the Kasem case effectively illustrates the issues with prosecuting elder abuse. If you’re not familiar with the drama that led to America’s Top 40 and Scooby Doo voice Casey Kasem, read Issues of Prosecuting Elder Abuse Part 1: The Casey Kasem Case.
There are several problems with prosecuting elder abuse effectively. In cases of physical and financial elder abuse, the victim often lacks mental capacity and thus may have difficulty recalling events. They are also likely subject to undue influence from family members and/or abusers. Lack of capacity and vulnerability to influence may make them unreliable sources for evidence.
In cases of physical abuse or neglect, as occurred with Casey Kasem, physical evidence can either disappear (a healed wound) or its source can be indeterminable. For example, in Kasem’s situation the prosecutor could not say for sure that Casey’s infections, bedsores, and eventual death were the result of neglect or if they would have occurred regardless due to his ill health.
Another fundamental issue in prosecuting elder abuse is that elder abuse often occurs within families. It is most often a child who is acting as caregiver that is accused of elder abuse. In the Kasem case, it was a younger wife acting as caregiver who was accused by a child. Family dynamics are often complicated and rife with emotional baggage. Finding one clearly innocent party and one clearly guilty party can be difficult for even the most meticulous judge to determine.
This can also be seen in the Kasem case. While it has been Kerri Casem in the media shouting about her inability to visit her father, and accusing her stepmother of elder abuse (and now his death), the story leaves one wondering what Jean Kasem’s side of the story is. Was she just unstable, or was there some reason she tried so hard to keep Kasem’s children away?
If one suspects elder abuse is occurring, financial or otherwise, there are two crucial things needed to fight it: solid evidence and a good elder law attorney. If you have questions about an elder abuse case in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, I am happy to speak with you about your case.