It is essential to trust that caregivers, family members and friends will honor, respect and treat your elderly loved ones with the care they deserve. When physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse is suspected, it can leave you feeling helpless, angry and anguished.
Elderly abuse occurs all too often. It has been estimated that 10 percent or more of senior citizens in the United States are victims of elder abuse every year, but only one of every 14 cases is reported.
Reporting the abuse and taking legal action by filing an elderly abuse case against the abuser can help protect other vulnerable seniors from becoming victims themselves.
What NJ Law Says About Elderly Abuse
In addition to specifically making it a crime to physically, sexually or emotionally harm an older adult or to financially exploit a senior citizen, the failure to act when required also has consequences. New Jersey law states that neglecting or abandoning an elderly person is a criminal act.
Elderly abuse in NJ can include any number of the following:
- Physical abuse – restraining, hitting, bruising or otherwise harming a senior citizen.
- Sexual abuse – engaging in non-consensual sexual conduct.
- Emotional abuse – inflicting distress or anguish through verbal or nonverbal actions.
- Abandonment or neglect – desertion by someone who has a duty to care for a senior or neglecting to care for a senior.
- Financial exploitation – taking, misusing or concealing a senior’s property, funds or other assets.
Potential Signs of Elderly Abuse
Any of the following signs might indicate that a senior citizen is experiencing some form of elder abuse:
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Significant weight changes
- Unexplained bruises or other injuries
- Frequent illnesses
- Poor hygiene
- Increase in mood swings
- Unpaid bills
Of course, there may be many explanations for any of the above that are not related to elder abuse, so it is important not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Still, these can be signals that something isn’t right.
Filing an Elderly Abuse Case
Family members or other loved ones can take legal action to protect seniors by filing a case in the New Jersey court system in the County Superior Court for their municipality. Those who suspect elder abuse in NJ can file both a civil complaint and a criminal elderly abuse case.
Getting a Temporary Restraining Order
If you believe the abuse is an ongoing concern, you may want to pursue a temporary restraining order against the alleged abuser. These legal documents can be granted by either a Superior Court judge or a domestic violence hearing officer. In the event you need to get a temporary restraining order on a night or weekend, your local police department should be your first call. They will work with a Municipal Court judge to help you obtain the protective order.
The Role of Adult Protective Services
In New Jersey, concerned family members, friends, caregivers or others can report suspected abuse to their county’s Adult Protective Services (APS) office. After receiving a report, APS will initiate an investigation within 72 hours, and a trained social worker will meet privately with the senior citizen. In the event the investigation reveals a need, APS will take action to safeguard your loved one.
However, there are limits to what APS can do. Specifically, APS cannot remove your loved one from his or her home without a court order. They also cannot force an adult who has the mental capacity to accept their help or to move to an alternative living situation. These limitations can be frustrating for family members and those concerned with their loved one’s welfare.
How an Attorney Can Help
In the State of New Jersey, you do not need an attorney to help you file a complaint about elder abuse. However, an attorney can help make the process easier and can help you pursue justice for the wrongdoing your loved one suffered.
An experienced elder abuse attorney helps you navigate the complexities of the court system and take legal action that goes beyond what Adult Protective Services can do for your loved one.
Choosing an Elder Abuse Lawyer
When you are looking for an attorney to help with an elderly abuse case in NJ, choose a lawyer who has experience handling domestic violence cases in your loved one’s county.
Elderly abuse cases can be emotionally draining; working with a compassionate yet stern attorney helps provide the comfort you need as well as the tenacity and dedication your elderly loved one deserves.
Senior citizens deserve respect and care. If you have concerns that physical, emotional, sexual or financial elder abuse may be occurring, or that your loved one may be the victim of neglect or abandonment by a caregiver, take action immediately to prevent further harm.