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Senior Abandonment is Elder Abuse

Senior abandonment is a form of elder abuse. It occurs when a person who has assumed responsibility for the care of an elderly person abandons that person. This can be disastrous in cases in which the senior has limited mobility, Alzheimer’s, or some form of dementia that makes it unsafe to leave him/her alone. Abandonment can mean anything from simply failing to show up to care for a senior to leaving an older person somewhere unattended.

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Is Senior Abandonment Against the Law in New Mexico?

Each state has its own laws regarding elder abandonment. This subject is covered under New Mexico Statutes Annotated, § 27-7-17 and § 30-47-3. The definition of “neglect” under § 27-7-16 includes the failure of a caretaker of an older adult to provide basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and supervision. Under § 30-47-3, in an institutional setting, “abuse” means any act or failure to act performed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly that causes harm or is likely to cause harm to a resident. This includes failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent damage to the health or safety of an elderly resident.

In addition to state law, the federal Elder Justice Act helps protect seniors against abandonment. This legislation addresses the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly at the federal level. It requires certain individuals to report crimes committed against the elderly.

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Who Is Responsible for Caring for Seniors?

Filial responsibility laws have been passed in some states. These laws require adult children to financially support parents who are not able to take care of themselves. Adult children are required, under these laws, to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical care for their aging parents. New Mexico is not one of the 30 states that have enacted filial responsibility laws.

Regardless of state legal requirements, many people become caregivers for aging parents or relatives at some point in their lives. The New Mexico Aging & Long-Term Services Department was created by the state legislature in 2004 to support aging in place and caregivers. This is the designated state agency for Adult Protective Services.

The department provides a downloadable Silver Alert Report Form on its website. When older adults with dementia wander, the government can issue a statewide Silver Alert, similar to an Amber Alert, which is sent to all media outlets for broadcast. If you see a senior who fits a Silver Alert description, dial 911 immediately and report the sighting to authorities.

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How Is Senior Abandonment Recognized?

You might suspect elder abandonment if you observe that an older adult:

  • Is alone and looks frightened, lost, or confused
  • Appears frail, lonely, or depressed
  • Looks malnourished or dehydrated
  • Has poor personal hygiene
  • Is behaving erratically, searching for someone or calling out someone’s name
  • Has not picked up mail or appeared at the usual places at the usual times

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What to Do If You Suspect Elder Abandonment

If you notice an elderly person in a public place who may have been abandoned, call the police and report the matter immediately. If you suspect that an older adult is being abused or neglected, contact Adult Protective Services at (505) 476-4912 or toll-free at (866) 654-3219. New Mexicans have a duty to report under the Adult Protective Services Act, New Mexico Statutes § 27-7-30, which states, “Any person, or financial institution, having reasonable cause to believe that an incapacitated adult is being abused, neglected or exploited shall immediately report that information to Adult Protective Services.”

For sound legal guidance in elder abuse matters, contact Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP at (903) 212-2822. Our Albuquerque nursing home abuse attorneys have extensive experience in cases involving abuse or neglect of senior citizens.

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