New report finds elder abuse more common than thought: Impact in SC

Elder abuse is reported in up to 10 percent of lucid elderly adults and up to half of those who suffer from dementia.

An article in Reuters recently discussed a report on elder abuse. Researchers found 10 percent of lucid older adults face elder abuse while up to half of those who suffer from dementia experience abuse. Researchers with the study further note that although cognitive impairment appears to be strongly linked to an increased risk of suffering from instances of elder abuse, those who suffer from physical impairments, psychological distress or social isolation are also at an increased risk compared to healthy, lucid, older adults.

The piece in Reuters encourages individuals to proactively prepare for future needs while young to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of elder abuse in the future. This can include preparing a living will and power of attorney documents.

Unfortunately, even when these steps are taken loved ones can find themselves in abusive situations. Victims of these abuses can hold the guilty accountable for their actions. Both criminal and civil remedies are available.

Criminal charges and penalties.

Elder abuse is not just immoral, it is against the law. There are a variety of criminal penalties associated with elder abuse. In South Carolina, penalties can include:

  • Abuse. Those who knowingly and willfully abuse a vulnerable adult are guilty of a felony and face imprisonment of up to five years. State law expands the term "abuse" to cover both physical and psychological forms. Examples include slapping, hitting, attempted sexual battery and improper use of medications.
  • Exploitation. This felony comes with a penalty of $5,000 or imprisonment of five years, or both. The person charged with this crime may also be required to make restitution. Examples include improper use of funds and causing a vulnerable adult to purchase goods or services through harassment.
  • Reporting crimes. South Carolina law also requires certain individuals to report suspicion of abuse. Those who fall within this requirement include certain physicians, mental health care providers, teachers, counselors, public assistance workers and caregivers. If one who is legally required to report knowingly or willfully fails to report instances of abuse, neglect or exploitation he or she may be charged with a misdemeanor. This conviction can come with a $2,500 penalty or imprisonment for up to one year.

Civil Remedies.

Civil remedies include monetary awards to compensate the victim for the costs of medical care and rehabilitation associated with any injuries from the abuse, any pain and anguish experienced as a result of the abuse, and any similar losses and harm that may be experienced in the future by the victim as result of the abuse. Punitive damages may also be awarded in some cases. Punitive damages are those awarded to the victim and designed to serve as an additional punishment against the guilty party.

Those who are the victims of elder abuse, or their loved ones, are wise to contact an experienced elder negligence lawyer to discuss the case. This legal professional will advocate for your rights, working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.

Keywords: elder abuse