The practitioner often cringes on first exposure to elder abuse. Beating, cheating, or cynically misusing a parent or other beloved elder not only shocks and disheartens those who stumble upon it, but often leaves the practitioner, like the poet, with “a tighter breathing and Zero at the bone.” Nothing in our culture prepares us to behold the abused elder. The elder herself is often similarly shocked and ashamed. Many times, an abused elder is in denial and may feel that she has somehow allowed the abuse to occur. Or the elder may feel that the abuser—oftentimes a family member, trusted neighbor, or caregiver—is somehow entitled to their share of the financial pie for providing companionship or performing basic physical care or household tasks. Approximately 700,000 to 3.5 million elders are abused, exploited, or neglected in America each year. In Maine, an estimated 5 percent of the elderly were victims of abuse in 2009. Further, it is estimated that about 84 percent of elder abuse cases in Maine go unreported. National estimates echo this trend; the National Center on Elder Abuse indicates that only one in six cases of elder abuse are identified and reported each year. Much of the underreporting and outright denial of elder abuse can be attributed to the shock and shame felt by the victim and the subsequent rationalization of her abusive situation. The purpose of this Article to is to explore the roots, nature, and prevalence of elder abuse, and exploitation in Maine from the perspective of a legal services practitioner, with an emphasis on the remedies currently available and the real— and perceived—barriers faced by the elderly and their advocates as they pursue justice against their exploiters during the current economic crisis.

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