Elder abuse has been defined as an intentional act which creates a serious risk of physical, emotional or financial harm to an elderly person.  The act can be a failure to provide or obtain the care needed by an elderly person, to financial theft or fraud. In the majority of cases, it is a member of the elderly person’s own family who is harming the elder.  But, it can also be hired caregivers, contractors, telephone marketers and newly acquired “friends”.

Elder Abuse Examples

The Value of Human Dignity is Violated by Elder Abuse

The Value of Human Dignity is Violated by Elder Abuse

By far, it is family members who engage in elder abuse.   Usually, the abuse is for control of the elder’s money. There is an entitlement emotion that “she doesn’t need it” or “I don’t want my inheritance spent on nursing home care” to “my siblings shouldn’t get any of this money”.  Many times, the elder will be isolated from rest of the family. Cell phones are taken away, and even landline phones are removed. Other family members or friends are not permitted to visit, and the elder is treated with disdain.  Bank accounts and credit cards are compromised. I have seen a son keep his father in a dangerously dilapidated house, far from the care he needed, so that he could spend his father’s money, rather than using it to pay for needed care.  I have seen a daughter move her mother out of her mother’s house, sell it, and take all of the money for herself.  She also used her mother’s credit cards for her own selfish needs.  I have seen a prevalence of fifty/sixty- year-old “men”, who live in their mother’s house, refuse to work, and live off of their mother’s accounts.  Usually drugs or alcohol are involved.  After some time, the son convinces the mother to put him on the house deed. Then the son claims the house belongs to him, and he has by then moved-in his significant other, and they try to force the mother out through physical and emotional mistreatment.  This game has become very predictable to me.

Elder Abuse: What Can Be Done?

It is important that we do not turn a blind eye to elder abuse. If you suspect that an elder is being abused, you should call your county Adult Protective Services Unit. You can make an anonymous report, and APS will investigate. You should also call your local police department. In appropriate cases, particularly if you are a family member seeking to stop the abuse, contact an elder law attorney immediately.

New Jersey’s Response to Elder Abuse

Although New Jersey has Adult Protective Services and other agencies, they have too few resources to combat the growing rise of elder abuse.  There is also a reluctance on the part of the police and the courts to get involved in this issue for a variety of reasons.  Other states have reacted more strongly, with financial abuse specialist teams (FAST), comprised of CPAs, financial planners, bankers, attorneys and law enforcement officials, to work with social workers to uncover theft.  Some states, like California, have separate courts to deal with these matters. Certainly, we need more legal consequences for those committing these acts in New Jersey.  It is important that we let our elected officials know that resources and legislation is needed to protect society’s most vulnerable.

Law Offices of Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. has the experience and tools available to help you protect an elderly person from abuse.  I have been doing just that for more than fifteen years. Please call and give me the opportunity to help.


Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. Esq. focuses his practice in estate planning, elder law and probate matters.  Mr. Shanahan additionally practices in business law and non-profit matters. He is a trained, experienced mediator and offers dispute resolution services, particularly for those arising from probate and elder law matters. Additionally, Mr. Shanahan’s firm, Law Offices of Robert J. Shanahan, Jr., LLC, offers a breadth of additional services to families and businesses throughout central New Jersey.

Mr. Shanahan received his Juris Doctor from the Temple University School of Law in 1985, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1981 from William Paterson University, with honors.  Robert is a member and Past President of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, and is a member of its Elder Law Committee. He is also active in the National Academy of Elder Law. He is pro bono counsel for Volunteer Guardianship One on One, in Flemington, New Jersey.

You may contact Bob at (908)751-1551, or [email protected].   For more information, visit www.legalcounselnj.com