The Heart and Soul of Elder Abuse Prevention

Our community elder abuse prevention coalitions are comprised of members who work with and care about older adults in their community.  As a regular feature of this blog, we plan to highlight members who have committed their knowledge, passion, skills, and time to protect older adults in their community.

noreenNoreen Murphy is an elder law attorney in Winchester, Massachusetts and a founding member of the Arlington Elder Abuse Prevention Task Force

Question:  What drew you to the Arlington Elder Abuse Prevention Task Force?

When I was asked to be a founding member of the Arlington Elder Abuse Prevention Task Force, I jumped at the chance. I knew the national statistics, and was aware that seniors were being targeted by so many individual scams. I felt that by joining the Arlington Task Force I could help put in place programs that would reach the senior community. I also felt that being on the Task Force would give me insight into the various types of scams – and maybe I would be able to prevent some seniors from becoming victims.

Question:  Do you see elder abuse issues in your legal practice?

Not as often as you might think. I think there are a couple of reasons: 1) I believe many seniors are embarrassed to admit they have been a victim; and 2) some seniors simply do not want to report to anyone.  Because of the attorney/client privilege, I am prohibited from disclosing anything a client tells me. If I suspect there may be something going on, I encourage my client to reach out to the Council on Aging, their physician, the police – pretty much any person who can take the information and look for a resolution. I also offer to accompany my client to any meeting they want to set up.  One thing I do when working with clients is to make sure they understand the legal documents I am writing – or they may already have in place.  We go over each document, and its purpose. For example, the Financial Power of Attorney is an extremely powerful document. It gives the person appointed almost complete control over my client’s finances. We discuss – in depth – who should be given this authority and why have they been chosen.

Question:  What do you think are the best ways to prevent elder abuse?

That is a really hard question to answer – there will always be predators lurking around. I think education and awareness is one way. But I also think that education and awareness extends beyond the senior to their family, neighbors, police, friends, store clerks, hairdressers. Pretty much everyone who comes into contact with seniors should have a baseline level of knowledge and know that there are people waiting for their call.  It is encouraging when we – the Task Force – hear about an attempted fraud that was prevented. Whether by the police, a family member, or an alert neighbor, it is nice to know that our out-reach and educational programs work. The Task Force is in this for the long-haul. So we will take one victory at a time!

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