Do I Need a Maryland Elder Neglect Attorney?

Elder Neglect Attorney Blog Image: In the foreground, a closeup of a young man in a button up looking at his watch. He is walking away from an elderly man blurred in the background.

Did you know that an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation every year? Of these cases, an estimated 93 percent go unreported. If you or a loved one experiences elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, whether physical, emotional, financial, or sexual, steps must be taken to hold parties accountable for their wrongdoing. You need an experienced elder neglect attorney on your side.

Under Maryland law (Md. Code, Criminal Law §§ 3-604) it is a crime for anyone responsible for the supervision of a vulnerable adult – a person over the age of 18 who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for their daily needs – to neglect, abuse, or exploit them.

  • Any abuse or neglect resulting in sexual abuse, serious harm, or death is a felony of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the first degree and, if found guilty, the individual “is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.”
  • Any abuse or neglect resulting in severe emotional distress is a misdemeanor of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the second degree and, if found guilty, the individual “is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.”

Understanding the Difference Between Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

Under Maryland law (Md. Code, Family Law § 14-101), there are distinct differences between the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Understanding the nuances involved in each can better help you determine whether or not you have a case and need to talk to an elder neglect attorney.

  • Abuse: “The sustaining of any physical injury by a vulnerable adult as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as a result of a malicious act by any person.”
  • Neglect: “The willful deprivation of a vulnerable adult of adequate food, clothing, essential medical treatment or habilitative therapy, shelter, or supervision.”
  • Exploitation: “Any action which involves the misuse of a vulnerable adult’s funds, property, or person.”

The Different Types of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

Elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation can take many forms, including physical, verbal/mental, financial, and sexual.

  • Physical: Includes slapping, biting, shoving, hitting, kicking, and otherwise unnecessary force. The withholding of medication is also a form of physical abuse.
  • Verbal/Mental: Includes threatening, manipulating, intimidating, and insulting a vulnerable adult. Ignoring an individual (the silent treatment) is also a form of mental abuse as it can cause a great deal of distress.
  • Financial: Includes forging checks, forcing property transfers, stealing cash, embezzling money, internet scams, and refusing a vulnerable adult access to their own money.
  • Sexual: Includes inappropriate touching, coerced photos, forced nudity, rape, forced sexual interactions between a vulnerable adult and a third party.

What Are Some Signs of Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation?

The following list consists of signs (clues) that abuse, neglect, or exploitation may have occurred or is currently occurring. On their own, none of the following are proof of wrong doing, but may warrant a discussion with an experienced elder neglect attorney.

Physical Abuse/NeglectPsychological AbuseFinancial Abuse/ExploitationSexual Abuse
Injuries: broken bones, bruises, welts, abrasions, or burns
Dehydration
Malnourishment
Untreated bedsores
Use of physical restraints
Caregiver refusing visitors
Over-medication
Failure to provide physical aids (glasses, hearing aids, etc.)
Statements about the caregiver that indicate fear or anxiety
Unusual changes in behavior or sleep
Threats or insults
Depressed, withdrawn, or gives short answers
Not allowed to talk to others aloneIgnored
Caregiver talks of the person as a burden
Mail forwarded to another person’s address
Frequent or large gifts to the caregiver
Unusual bank activity
Confusion about income and resources
Personal belongings are missing
Unpaid bills despite adequate income
Quality of life is substandard given the person’s resources
Vaginal infection
Vaginal or anal bleeding
Bruising
Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
Torn or bloody undergarments

If you notice any of the above signs of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, consider reaching out to an attorney to evaluate your options.

Health care professionals, social workers, law enforcement officers, employees of licensed health care facilities, and employees of financial institutions are mandatory reporters under Maryland law. This means that if any of these individuals suspect elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, they are required to report the alleged incident to the local department of social services.

Hiring an Elder Neglect Attorney in Maryland

PathFinder Law Group is a law firm in Towson, Maryland specializing in Elder Law. Our team provides legal guidance that comes from the heart and our solutions are tailored to fit your individual needs. Our team can assist with all aspects of elder law and estate planning, including: Estate Planning Documents, Long-Term Planning, Retirement Planning, Assisted Living & Nursing Home Care, Asset Protection & Preservation, Guardianship, Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney (to address financial control issues), Advance Medical Directive (to help with health care decisions), Medicaid & Medical Assistance, Trusts, and Probate.

To contact PathFinder Law Group about your Elder Law Planning needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529  or email staff@pathfinderlawgroup.com. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.

About Adam Zimmerman

Adam Zimmerman is known for his unique ability to put people at ease. Within minutes of meeting Adam, his clients realize he is not the stereotypical attorney and is genuinely invested in helping them through their life situations. He is committed to empowering his clients to be decision makers in the process, so they are knowledgeable about the course of action they decide over their affairs.