Elder abuse and lawyers’ ethical responsibilities: Incorporating screening into practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Legal Ethics, 2018, 21 (1), pp. 23 - 45
Issue Date:
2018-01-02
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© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Elder abuse is a serious and under-detected problem. Law reform agencies and legal profession regulatory authorities have called for action to ensure that lawyers meet their ethical obligations to older clients, including identifying and acting on risk factors for abuse. Screening tools to detect situations of elder abuse exist, but they are targeted mainly at health and social care practitioners. Drawing on international literature, this article identifies and discusses screening tools that could be adapted for use by legal professionals. Three general categories of screening are relevant for lawyers who serve older clients: (1) elder abuse screening tools that cover all domains of abuse or target specific behaviours, such as financial exploitation; (2) screening for decision-making capacity, especially taking account of the impact of abuse or neglect on capacity; and (3) screening to probe the suitability of a person to act in a formal decision-making role for an older person. The article emphasises the importance of implementing screening processes and follow-up actions in a manner that fosters a therapeutic relationship between the older client and the lawyer. It concludes with recommendations for further research in this important area.
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