Elder financial abuse simply means the embezzlement, misuse, or withholding of an aging adult’s resources by another person.
This person could be a friend or family member/caretaker, a fraudster, or an internet scam artist, with investment fraud topping them all.
Of all the senior citizens’ abuses, financial abuse is the most dreaded.
The abuse starts when a caretaker or fraudster gains access to the elder’s personal documents like medical forms, social security, tax, mortgage, and investment records.
Then greed, the feeling of justified in taking what is ‘rightfully theirs’ since they receive no pay for taking care of an aging parent, will set in leading to financial fraud.
Eldercare is stressful and can interfere with the personal life of the caretaker. These may induce a feeling that they are entitled to some kind of compensation causing pilfering.
This post details, among others, the difficulties encountered in monitoring elder financial abuse while raising awareness on how to recognize elder abuse, and where to get help in case of occurrence.
You might ask why financial abuse in the first place and why the elderly? The following answer the questions:
a) Evil people looking for money go where the money is available and easily obtainable.
b) Remember, the wealth of civilized nations are in the hands of their baby boomer generations. Friends, family, and even unrelated others know this.
c) Physical and mental conditions of the elder persons make them easy targets.
d) A large number of seniors suffer from one or two of the following diseases: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or dementia, making them prime targets for swindlers.
Who will believe the story of a confused cognitively-impairment aging adult? Some elders don’t even know when they are swindled!
The National Council On Aging (https://www.ncoa.org/), estimates that approximately ten percent of Americans aged 60+ and also by another estimate – approximately 5 million elders per year – suffer at the least some form of elder abuse. JGIM went further: Family members are the most common perpetrators of financial exploitation of older adults (57.9%), followed by friends and neighbors (16.9%), and then by home care aides (14.9%). Sixty percent of adult protective services cases involve financial
abuse of an elder by an adult child. (Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2014).
As far as financial abuse is concerned, predators are not only children of the aging seniors or friends and family.
They can also be found in other places than the elders’ homes or care centers: bank waiting areas, malls, grocery parking lots, etc.
The frail elderly can easily be identified in any of these places.
As explained here the information available on any form of elder abuse is still scanty.
Even the work of concerned individuals, organizations, and even some governments has only put a dent.
In spite of all these difficulties, these concerned people are now poised to find a solution to this unacceptable problem. The following are the difficulties in investigating elder financial abuse:
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At the root of the lack of information to investigate and prosecute elder financial abuses are the following:
a) Unawareness on the part of the caretakers and the aging seniors – unless trained, you may not recognize elder financial abuse.
b) the involvement of caretakers in these crimes – remember, these people were entrusted to care for and protect the aging seniors.
A caretaker – a family member or an employee – would not tell on him/herself. As said elsewhere on this site, it would be like a bank robber to investigate the robbery.
c) the elder is unwilling to tell on culprits because of fear of repercussions from the caretakers.
d) besides, the senior citizen would not like to get a loved one or family member into trouble.
If you are involved in the financial management of an elderly person:
- you will notice a sudden withdrawal of large sums or many small amounts of money or all of a sudden small possessions of the elder person go missing.
- You may notice alcohol or drug abuse
- Depression will follow
- Loss of energy to carry out normal chores and instead relying on others to provide care.
- Social isolation and fear of people
- Suspicious behavior, delusions.
What To Do
If you suspect financial abuse, you may not be qualified or have the resources to investigate it. There are several ways to go around these obstacles, like:
- talk to somebody who may have more knowledge about dealing with financial abuse
- by calling your local Adult Protective Services and or state attorney general’s office. They know what to do.
- file a police report.
- consult your local probate court.
Prevention of elder abuse starts with awareness and understanding and preparing for what happens during later life when health starts to fail.
The elder, due to disabilities like dementia, may not be able to manage his finances or know when financial abuse is going on.
Unless one is trained in or knows how to recognize it, loved ones may not know when the abuse is taking place also.
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Therefore, it is important for every person:
a) to appoint a ‘power of attorney’ when still in sound mind to make such decisions when he/she can no more do those for self.
b) an elder should not be left alone or ‘abandoned’ in the care facility or his home. Loved ones should keep constant communication or visits and a watchful eye on things.
c) since caretakers are generally the predators in many elder abuse crimes, the caretakers must be screened well before employment.
d) monitor bank accounts and all investments of your parent. As equally important is never sign a document like checks you don’t understand.
e) while not keeping a distance from the caretaker, make sure he or she is aware you are on the lookout for your parent.
The reasons for the existence of this unfortunate situation are explained above.
This post has also detailed the difficulties in collecting information on elder financial abuse; how to detect or recognize it; what a predator looks like and their prowling places.
It has been stated here and elsewhere on this site, the tireless effort of many concerned individuals, organizations, and even countries toward preventing or eradicating elder financial abuse.
Because of the gravity of and the devastating consequences on the senior citizens, elder financial abuse is the most dreaded abuse.
Fortunately, awareness is gaining ground, and concerned peoples, companies, and even governments are now involved.
This post and the rest in the ‘series’ also focus on information dissemination. I urge you and everybody that comes across this post to get involved so that this evil can be stamped out.
For further reading on how to protect yourself or your aging parent from financial abuse, visit AARP’s Scams and Fraud page.
Ph.: (1) 602-687-2157