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West Virginia attorney general announces new elder abuse unit

Last month, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a new unit in his office that will be tasked with preventing and litigating cases of elder abuse. Prosecutors who work in the unit will focus on cases involving the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older West Virginians.

This includes financial abuse. As Morrissey noted, "Unfortunately, all too often, con artists, deceptive businessmen, caretakers and even family members take advantage of our elderly friends. Such conduct cannot be tolerated."

The new unit will work to enforce consumer protection laws aimed at helping older people. Prosecutors will handle cases involving overcharging, deceptive business practices, service denial and unfair debt collection practices.

Along with West Virginia's Bureau of Senior Services, the attorney general's office will work to help educate seniors about common scams and how to keep from becoming victims. It will also help them with some common legal issues. The unit will implement a scam alert database, and West Virginians can contact the new unit with questions or information.

Of course, physical and emotional abuse are of particular concern for people with elderly loved ones in a nursing home or other living facility or who have home health care aides. Morrisey said that these older people are particularly susceptible to abuse.

The new unit will work with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to punish health care workers who neglect or abuse people who are in their care. The prosecutors will also file conservatorship, guardianship and other petitions on behalf of Adult Protective Services to help ensure that seniors who need help managing their daily lives, including their financial affairs, are in the hands of someone who can be trusted.

All of these measures are certainly a step in the right direction to help our growing senior and elderly population avoid becoming victims of any type of abuse. However, if one of your loved ones has been neglected or abused in a hospital, nursing home, memory care facility, assisted living community or even by someone caring for him or her at home, it's essential to find out what your civil legal options are. A West Virginia attorney with experience handling nursing home neglect and abuse cases can provide valuable guidance.

Source: McKnight's Senior Living, "West Virginia launches new elder abuse litigation and prevention unit," Lois A. Bowers, March 25, 2018

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