6 Ways the Law Protects Older People’s Rights

Posted February 11, 2024 by in Lifestyle

In our society, older people are a vital and respected demographic deserving of dignity and protection under the law. As the population of older individuals grows, it becomes increasingly important to understand and appreciate the legal safeguards that exist to uphold their rights. These laws ensure that older people live with the respect and care they merit, shielding them from exploitation, abuse, and discrimination.

This article explores six key ways in which the law intervenes to protect the rights of older people.

  1. Age Discrimination Laws

Older individuals often face discrimination based on their age, particularly in areas like employment and housing. Age discrimination laws are in place to protect older people from such unfair treatment. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that specifically prohibits employment discrimination against individuals who are 40 years old or older. This law covers various aspects of employment, including hiring, promotions, layoffs, and benefits.

Similarly, laws against age discrimination in housing prevent landlords and housing societies from refusing to sell or rent to someone based on their age. These legal protections ensure that older individuals are treated fairly and given the same opportunities as others, irrespective of their age. By combating ageism, these laws help in creating a more inclusive and respectful society for all.

  1. Legal Action Against Nursing Home Neglect

A crucial aspect of legal protection for older adults involves the care they receive in nursing homes. One common concern most people have is: can you sue a nursing home for neglect? The answer is a resounding yes. The law provides clear channels for taking legal action against nursing homes that fail to provide adequate care. Elderly residents in nursing homes have the right to receive a standard of care that maintains their physical and emotional well-being. When this standard is not met, it constitutes neglect.

Pursuing legal action in cases of nursing home neglect involves several steps. Initially, it is essential to gather evidence of neglect, which may include medical records, photographs of the conditions, and testimonies from other residents or staff. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in elder law is a critical next step. These legal professionals can provide guidance on the viability of the case and the process involved in filing a lawsuit. A lawsuit can result in compensation for the affected individual and also serve as a deterrent, encouraging nursing homes to maintain higher standards of care.

  1. Elder Abuse and Neglect Laws

Elder abuse and neglect are serious issues that can have devastating effects on older individuals. So, to combat this, laws have been enacted at both federal and state levels. These laws provide for the protection of seniors from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as financial exploitation and neglect. They empower authorities, such as law enforcement and social service agencies, to investigate allegations of abuse and take appropriate action.

Adult Protective Services (APS) is a key agency involved in addressing elder abuse. APS investigates reports of abuse, offers services to victims, and works with law enforcement when necessary. The legal framework around elder abuse also mandates certain professionals, like healthcare workers and social service providers, to report suspected abuse. This comprehensive legal approach ensures that the rights of older people are protected and that they can live their lives free from harm and exploitation.

  1. Financial Protection Laws

The financial exploitation of older adults is a concern that has been increasingly acknowledged in recent years. Hence, to combat this, a range of laws and regulations have been established to safeguard the financial interests of older people. These laws are designed to protect older individuals from scams, fraud, and misuse of their assets.

Key among these protective measures is the role of agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which offers resources and information to help seniors and their families recognize and avoid financial scams. Additionally, many states have laws that specifically address elder financial abuse, including unauthorized use of an older person’s funds, property, or resources.

Family members also play a critical role in helping to protect their elderly relatives from financial exploitation. This can involve monitoring bank accounts, being vigilant about unusual financial activities, and ensuring that estate planning documents like wills and trusts are up-to-date. It’s also important to have open and honest conversations with older family members about their finances and to involve them in financial decision-making processes to the extent possible.

  1. Healthcare Rights and Medicare

Healthcare is a fundamental concern for older adults, and the law provides specific protections to ensure their access to adequate medical care. One of the key elements of this legal framework is Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older. Medicare provides a broad range of benefits, including hospital stays, physician visits, prescription drugs, and preventive services.

Older adults have specific rights under Medicare, including the right to be treated with respect, to have access to doctors, specialists, and hospitals, to understand their coverage, and to get emergency care when needed. They also have the right to appeal decisions about their Medicare services. If they believe their rights are not being respected or their needs are not being met, they have legal avenues to pursue complaints and get their issues resolved.

Understanding these rights is crucial for older individuals and their families. It enables them to make informed decisions about healthcare and ensures that they receive the care they are entitled to. 

  1. Guardianship and Conservatorship Laws

Guardianship and conservatorship laws provide a legal framework for assisting older adults who are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. These laws allow a court-appointed guardian or conservator to make decisions on behalf of an older adult regarding their personal and financial affairs.

Guardianship pertains to personal and medical decisions, while conservatorship relates to financial decisions. These arrangements are typically considered when an individual is incapacitated due to age-related conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The process involves a court hearing where the need for a guardian or conservator is assessed and, if deemed necessary, an appropriate individual is appointed.

The legal system offers a robust framework to protect the rights and well-being of older people. From financial protection laws to healthcare rights and guardianship regulations, these legal provisions play a critical role in safeguarding the interests of older people. Understanding and utilizing these laws can empower older adults and their families to confront challenges confidently and ensure that their rights are always protected. In doing so, we not only uphold the dignity and respect of our elderly population but also reinforce the values of care and justice in our society.

Read more: