Domestic abuse occurs in many forms. Violence against intimate partners, children, and elders is illegal in Florida and carries significant consequences.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The monthly focus aims to shine a light on the problem nationally as well as in our own communities. Family and domestic health violence are estimated to affect 10 million people every year in the U.S. The economic cost of domestic and family violence is estimated at more than $12 million annually.
More than 106,000 domestic violence crimes were reported in Florida in 2020 with law enforcement making 63,217 arrests. In Miami-Dade alone, there were 7,570 domestic violence offenses including 22 murders. Experts believe many more cases go unreported.
Violence Against Seniors Expected to Rise
Of the offenses in the state, the victim was married to the offender in more than 20,000 cases. Married and intimate-partner violence rightfully receives deserved attention. However, in 2020, nearly 12,500 cases involved a victim who was the parent of the aggressor.
The number of seniors affected is expected to rise over the next 20 years with the increase in the elderly population. Elder abuse is when a caregiver (including a family member) fails to act or intentionally acts in a way that causes or creates a risk of harm to an elder. Victims tend to have shared living situations, social isolation, and dementia.
Common Types of Elder Abuse
If a parent is no longer able to care for themselves, their children commonly become their guardians or have a power of attorney over their health or financial decisions.
There are many examples of abuse against seniors:
- Coercive: Limiting who can visit with them and when
- Financial: Stealing their financial resources for personal gain
- Physical: Denying medical care, hitting, kicking, and pulling hair
- Neglect: Causing bed sores by leaving them in bed without proper care
- Expressive: Threatening them or degrading them
- Sexual: Raping or otherwise sexually violating elders
Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Elderly Persons
Florida law defines domestic violence as the following:
“Domestic violence means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”
An individual is a family or household member if any of the following is true:
- Former spouses
- Persons related by blood or marriage
- Persons who are living together as a family or who have lived together in the past as a family
- Persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married
State statute also specifically outlines abuse against elders in three categories: abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- Anyone suspected of intentionally abusing an elderly person but does not cause great bodily harm faces a third-degree felony charge and a prison term of up to 5 years.
- If great bodily harm is caused (aggravated abuse), a first-degree felony can mean up to 30 years in prison.
- Willful or culpable negligence that does not cause great bodily harm is a third-degree felony with imprisonment of up to 5 years.
- If the willful or culpable negligence results in great bodily harm, the defendant faces a second-degree felony and a prison term of up to 15 years.
- The financial exploitation of an elderly person can be a first-, second-, or third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Many older Americans no longer living on their own reside in an adult-care facility. The caregivers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care centers must appropriately care for their elderly residents. Loved ones should stay watchful for any signs of their elderly family members living in an adult-care facility.
Possible symptoms of elder abuse include the following:
- Change from the normal routine
- Change in appearance
- Change in fiscal circumstance
- Sleep pattern disturbance
- Unusual or unexplained injuries (cuts, bruises, burns)
- Confinement against their will (tied to furniture or locked in a room)
- Dehydration or malnutrition without a medical cause
- Fear, withdrawal, or depression
- Hesitation to talk openly
Legal Guidance for Suspected Elder Abuse
At Mitchell & West LLC, our 100-plus years of combined experience can help those impacted by elder abuse.
Depending on your needs, our legal team can support you in the following ways:
- Restraining Orders: We can help protect the senior by filing an adult abuse restraining order.
- Personal Injury Lawsuits: We can help families sue for just compensation against an adult-care facility that abused or neglected their loved one.
- Criminal Defense: We can vigorously defend someone accused of elder abuse.
Senior citizens deserve respect and protection. Our attorneys recognize the sensitivity of these cases. We pair compassion and tenacity to fight for the best results for our clients. Your first step is to schedule a consultation. Reach us online or call (305) 783-3301.