What constitutes exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult in Florida?

With Florida's extensive population of retired persons, the issue of exploitation of the elderly is a recurring topic. Practicing elder lawyers regularly face issues pertaining to this subject. 

This is the first in a series of blog discussions of Florida's recently enacted changes to Chapter 825, Fla. Stat. which addresses exploitation of an elderly person or of a disabled adult. Many of these changes become effective on October 15, 2014. In order to understand Chapter 825, certain definitions should be taken into account. First, an "elderly person" means a person 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging as manifested by advanced age or organic brain damage, or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunction, to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for the person's own care or protection is impaired. A "disabled adult" means a person 18 years of age or older who suffers from a condition of physical or mental incapacitation due to a developmental disability, organic brain damage, or mental illness, or who has one or more physical or mental limitations that restrict the person's ability to perform the normal activities of daily living.

Simply stated, the first thing to note about the statutory language is that it contains an age component--60 for elderly person and 18 for disabled adults--and an impairment component. The elderly person must have some degree of dysfunction that impacts their ability to provide adequately for their own care or protection. The disabled adult must have certain disability, damage or illness that restricts the person's ability to perform the normal activities of daily living.

These criteria might come as a surprise to many people in that they do not require the person to be age 90 and diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The reach of the statute is far broader and as a result, the average family member or caregiver should understand this in dealing with an elderly or a disabled person's assets or property. Solid legal advice on elder law is often advisable in order to guard against a violation of the exploitation statute.

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