Financial abuse of the elderly is one of the most often reported types of elder abuse, according to several studies. In “Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study,” researchers examined elder abuse and what happens when a guardian or conservator is financially abusing the senior. They found that 42 of 1000 seniors studied, self-reported being victims of financial abuse.
Guardians are in a unique position to exploit the elderly since they already have the trust of the courts and the seniors for whom they serve as guardians. Guardians are usually family members or other people in a position of trust. The National Adult Protective Services Association reports that 90% of people who financially abuse the elderly are family members or people in a position of trust.
What is financial abuse of the elderly?
Exploiting the elderly can include such things as stealing their money or other property, and impersonating them or someone else to gain access to the elderly or their assets. Other forms of financial abuse, include using their property without permission and using deception or force to obtain their money, credit cards, accounts, power of attorney, or other property. Since guardians' official documents give them the authority to act on behalf of the seniors they represent, it is easy for guardians to take advantage .
Are there signs of elder financial abuse?
If you spot sudden lifestyle changes in the guardian of a senior, such as making purchases that seem beyond the guardian’s means or income, the guardian may be tapping into the senior’s assets. If you spot any of the following about the senior, it may indicate he or she is falling victim to financial abuse:
- The elder’s jewelry, cash or personal items are missing.
- The senior’s house is in disrepair.
- The senior does not have adequate clothing or personal care items, even though the assets should be sufficient to provide
- The elder’s personal hygiene is worsening.
Who among the elderly are the most vulnerable to financial abuse?
The New York study found that people between the ages of 65 and 74 have the highest rates of financial abuse, in both self-reported and documented cases. Senior women are victims of exploitation at roughly twice that of elderly men. Nearly 70% of elderly Caucasians have been the victims of financial abuse. Socially isolated seniors are at higher risk for exploitation since fewer people are watching over them.
How can you help an elder who is a victim of financial abuse?
Thankfully, there are several options for helping, when you suspect financial exploitation of an elderly person. These include:
- Law enforcement. Call your local police department. Call 911, if you feel the senior is in immediate danger.
- Courts. Contact your local District Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney. Many have fraud or elder abuse departments.
- DHR. In Alabama DHR’s Adult Protective Services protect seniors from exploitation.
- Nursing home. If the senior is in a nursing home, report the abuse to the nursing home. Nursing homes are required to investigate and report abuse to the proper authorities.
- Attorney. Talk with a local elder law attorney about remedies for exploited seniors.
National Center on Elder Abuse. “What We Do. https://ncea.acl.gov/whatwedo/research/statistics.html
Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc. “Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study.” http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/reports/Under%20the%20Radar%2005%2012%2011%20final%20report.pdf
Khalfani-Cox, Lynette. “Spot Elder Financial Abuse.” http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2015/how-to-spot-early-warning-signs-of-elder-financial-abuse.html
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Your Rights and Protections as a Nursing Home Resident. https://downloads.cms.gov/medicare/Your_Resident_Rights_and_Protections_section.pdf
Woolf, Linda M., Ph.D. “Elder Abuse and Neglect.” http://faculty.webster.edu/woolflm/abuse.html
National Adult Protective Services Association. “Elder Financial Exploitation.” http://www.napsa-now.org/policy-advocacy/exploitation/
Wasik, John. “4 Risk Factors For Elder Financial Abuse.” (accessed June 29, 2017) https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2017/02/12/4-risk-factors-for-elder-financial-abuse/#2a4118035f93
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “Elder Financial Abuse.” http://www.canhr.org/factsheets/abuse_fs/html/fs_financialabuse.htm