To the editor:
For World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, note these forms of elder financial exploitation in Massachusetts and beyond:
1. Elders and their families are being targeted, with the elder isolated to gain control of assets and homes, actions that involve state agencies, local police and the legal system. Exploitation often includes representatives allegedly tasked with “protecting” the elder through health care proxies and powers of attorney (POA), followed by court appointments of guardian ad items, guardians and conservators.
2. Isolation of the elder sometimes involves filing false restraining orders or court contempt orders against family members advocating for their elder loved ones. Family members are forced to hire attorneys or must defend themselves “pro se” (representing oneself). This lucrative pattern of removing elder rights and liquidating their homes benefits many involved, to the detriment of elders and their families.
3. In defiance of the federal and state anti-lien statutes, liens in Massachusetts are being placed on elder homes and those of their families without their knowledge. In 2017, California enacted Medi-Cal legislation to ensure Medicaid estate recovery is implemented fairly and lawfully. The federal Medicaid Homestead of Modest Value exemption protects a home whose fair market value is 50% or less of the average price of homes in the county where the homestead is located. Families need to check their registry of deeds to ensure unlawful liens are not on their homes.
4. Elders and families must stay current with an elder’s medical records, which may be incomplete or inaccurate: online portal access does not include everything. Elders have been unknowingly enrolled in research programs or given antipsychotics without permission. Some facilities use exorbitant charges to obstruct access to patient information, but one has the right to read records at a facility, even scan them with a cell phone.
Members of the Massachusetts Silver Legislature (established in 1980 under Gov. King’s administration) are gathering examples of such abuses. Please contact members at email@example.com with similar experiences. Thank you.