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Falsely accused of elder abuse.

Auburn, WA |

I have an elderly aunt who has been living in our home. In a nutshell, she has been falsely accusing us of abuse. She solicits neighbors, and tells them stories about how we abuse and neglect her. As of late, this behavior has gotten progressively worse. We have tried to handle this as nicely as possible, taking into consideration that there is likely some mental issue contributing. We have offered to help her find other living arrangements, to help her get settled, etc, but she always has a reason why she can't leave. She has several neighbors convinced that we are monsters, and that we won't allow her to leave. This evening, she took a 3 page letter to one of the neighbors detailing the alleged abuse. This situation has become unbearable for everyone involved.

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Attorney answers 2


Consult with an attorney to avoid getting yourself into a ugly situation.


This is a very threatening scenario, and requires that you take very specific actions to protect yourselves against potential false accusations, and even potential criminal investigations or actual charges of "elder abuse". Even under the most optimistic view, this circumstance is very threatening. The main problem is that you can't just turn your back and walk away. Now that your aunt is living in your home, you have to continue to provide for her needs until either she leaves voluntarily, or you evict her legally - - - perhaps leaving her in a more vulnerable condition. No good options at hand.

In the meantime, you need to take some steps to inform yourself about the risks that you are undertaking. You should first meet with an attorney who will represent you (not your aunt), and advise you about elder abuse and your responsibilities, and how to handle a potential investigation by Adult Protective Services. I recommend that you contact Neil Sarles in Seattle at 206-682-1771.

I would also recommend that you meet with a criminal defense attorney who can advise you about what to do if these accusations are investigated by the police. It may be that Neil will be able to explain what should be done, and not be done. But if not, I would talk with someone who handles criminal matters routinely. I would start with John Stocks in Auburn at 253-859-8859.

In the meantime, I would not recommend that you try to handle this situation with public statements (written or oral) to your neighbors or others. You may only make things worse by creating a record that may come back to haunt you.

And also, you must be absolutely scrupulous about handling financial transactions involving your aunt. Attempt, insofar as it is possible, to have her handle her own finances and make any payments for goods or services that she purchases. To the extent that it is absolutely necessary that she reimburse you for items, or pays you for anything, be certain that she signs the check, and that you be prepared to account to the penny for everything that you do.

You are discovering that "no good deed will go unpunished!". I'm sorry for what you are going through, and the necessity that you take steps to protect yourself.

Dan Kellogg
Renton, WA