Minnesota law seeks to protect the elderly against abuse. Minnesota has several laws, both civil and criminal, with the goal of protecting the elderly from abuse. Minnesota also mandates that certain people must report abuse when they witness it to the proper authorities, such as the police. For example, social workers and clergy members are mandated reporters of abuse in Minnesota.
One law that protects the elderly in Minnesota is the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act. The Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act identifies three kinds of mistreatment of the elderly. The first type of mistreatment identified is physical abuse, which is probably the most obvious to people when they think of elder abuse. Physical abuse encompasses physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Physical abuse may be committed by an employee of the elderly person, such as a caregiver, a nurse, or even a doctor. Abuse may also be committed by a family member or visitor to an elderly person. Anyone who witnesses the abuse of an elderly person should report it to the authorities immediately.
The second type of mistreatment identified under the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act is neglect. Neglect can refer to neglect by caregivers, tasked to take care of an elderly person, either inside their home or at a facility like a nursing home. This law also covers self-neglect, which many may not at first glance consider it elder abuse. Self-neglect means that an individual is not able to meet their own basic needs, such as feeding and attending to their own medical conditions and personal hygiene. Reporting self-neglect to a local welfare agency will allow a social worker to help get the elderly person the help needed to care for themselves.
Finally, the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act covers financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is the improper use of the elderly person’s funds, property, or other assets by a caregiver, family member, person with power of attorney, or even a company. Examples of financial exploitation include forging the elderly persons’ signature, cashing checks without authorization, stealing money or other property, and deceiving an elderly person into signing a contract that does not benefit them. Sometimes it can be a company that is financially exploiting an elderly person. Common scams include investment scams and pre-need funeral packages.
Any person who believes that an elderly person is being abused in some way should report it to the nearest police department. Each county in Minnesota provides training to local police to deal with elder abuse issues. Reporting a case of elder abuse, even adults who are simply not able to care for themselves anymore, will help the elderly person get the help they need and protect them from being harmed. Each county has a designated Common Entry Point which receives all reports of suspect mistreatment.
Elderly persons are one of our most vulnerable communities in Minnesota. It is important for Minnesota residents to check in on our elderly friends and neighbors from time to time and be sure that they are being properly cared for. It is up to all of us to protect this community.