Protection from an Abusive Caregiver

Dealing with abusive behavior from an in-home caregiver is a nightmare scenario for the victims and their loved ones. In previous blog posts, we discussed issues surrounding the selection of at home caregivers, but sometimes nefarious individuals slip through the cracks. In certain situations, firing an in-home caregiver suspected of abusive behavior will stop the immediate threat of additional physical harm. The threat of civil and criminal penalties will keep some criminals from continuing the abusive behavior. However, you do have additional remedies if you feel the threat of continued abuse. In a number of incidents, elderly individuals reported that abusive in-home caregivers threatened them with more severe abuse if they called the police or reported the behavior to friends or family. Additional remedies or measures must be taken in these situations.

The obvious first step is to call 911. If you are in immediate danger from your caregiver, letting them know that you are on the phone with the police and that help is on the way will hopefully scare them off. The police officers have the authority to contact a judicial officer who has the legal authority to issue an immediate Emergency Protective Order. This order prohibits the abusive caregiver from coming near you or contacting you in any way. This is an emergency order so it only remains in effect for 7 calendar days or 5 court days. This order is designed as an emergency measure that stops the immediate problem until a more permanent solution is implemented. By going this route, you start a paper trail to catalog the reported instances of abuse.

The next step to take is a Temporary Restraining Order. This will extend the Emergency Protective Order already in place with the same restrictions on any contact between the abuser and victim. This is a more formal order requiring you to fill out and file certain forms with the courthouse. The judge then must sign the Temporary Restraining Order and the order must be delivered to the abuser for it to go into effect.

The Temporary Restraining Order can become a permanent order if certain requirements are met and documents filed. The permanent order is good for up to five years, and you have the ability to renew the order for additional time periods.

These steps are designed for both domestic abuse situations and elder abuse situations. The domestic abuse situations require actual physical abuse to trigger the protective orders. Elder abuse situations involve physical, mental, or financial abuse. With financial abuse, it might not be as quickly proven as physical abuse, but the harm can be just as devastating, thus emphasizing the need for the restraining order to prevent additional damage.

It is important to keep these options in mind if you or a loved one faces a situation involving abuse from a caregiver. Calling the police will provide immediate relief from harm, but additional measures must be taken to stop harm down the road. These legal remedies help to protect you by providing the legal authority to keep would be abusers away from you. They do not completely eliminate the risk of abuse because persistent criminals might not be deterred by a restraining order. The orders do create additional penalties beyond the ones already contemplated by virtue of the previous abusive behavior.

It is important to be proactive in these types of situations. You should know your rights ahead of time. Do not hesitate to contact our elder law attorneys if you need clarification on these issues or other elder law questions.

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