Senior advocates understand personal rights, elder abuse, consumer rights, the legislative process and how programs are funded. They also see that agencies correctly implement laws and draw attention to the ones needing changes. This article focuses on personal rights and elder abuse law. Effective advocates begin by reading the laws and understanding what rights they protect. Hawai‘i law defines six kinds of abuse: physical, psychological, sexual, caregiver neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect.

  • “Capacity” means the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of making decisions concerning one’s person or to communicate these decisions.
  • “Caregiver” means any person who has knowingly and willingly assumed the care, supervision or physical control of, or who has a legal or contractual duty to care for the health, safety and welfare of a vulnerable adult.
  • Caregiver neglect” means the failure of a caregiver to exercise that degree of care for a vulnerable adult that a reasonable person with the responsibility of a caregiver would exercise within the scope of assumed, legal or contractual duties:

(1) Assist with personal hygiene

(2) Protect the vulnerable adult from abandonment

(3) Provide, in a timely manner, necessary food, shelter or clothing

(4) Provide, in a timely manner, necessary healthcare, access to healthcare, medication, psychological and physical care, or supervision

(5) Protect the vulnerable adult from dangerous, harmful or detrimental drugs, except those provided to the vulnerable adult pursuant to the direction or prescription of a practitioner

(6) Protect the vulnerable adult from health and safety hazards

(7) Protect the vulnerable adult from abuse by third parties

  • “Financial exploitation” means the wrongful taking, withholding, appropriation or use of a vulnerable adult’s money, real property or personal property, including but not limited to:

(1) The breach of a fiduciary duty, such as the misuse of a power of attorney or guardianship privileges, resulting in the unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property

(2) The unauthorized taking of personal assets

(3) The misappropriation or misuse of moneys belonging to the vulnerable adult

(4) Failure to effectively use a vulnerable adult’s income and assets for the necessities required for his or her support and maintenance It’s the government’s job to ensure that these kinds of abuse do not happen.

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