Elder Financial Abuse
Mistreatment of seniors is not just a matter of neglect or violence. Financial abuse is also all too common, and often, family members and caregivers are the culprits. Learn more about the epidemic of elder financial abuse.
What is Elder Financial Abuse?
The Assisted Living Federation of America defines elder financial exploitation as “the illegal use of an older adult’s funds or property for the benefits of someone besides the older adult. This includes theft, fraud, and use of influence over the senior to gain control over an older person’s money or property.”
Whether it is a scam artist or a caregiver perpetrating the financial abuse, the problem is widespread, and the effects can be devastating.
A new poll conducted by IPT/IPI asked a wide range of experts, from elder law attorneys to health care professionals, about the dangers of financial exploitation to America’s seniors. The most shocking fact to come out of the survey? Of the top three exploitation issues the experts identified, the two most common abuses are “theft or diversion of funds or property by family members” and “theft or diversion of funds or property by caregivers.”
“When older Americans are financially exploited and there are no resources left for their care, these individuals effectively become wards of the state,” says Mark Lachs, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of medicine and director of geriatrics, in the study’s press release.
“This is a major problem and we know there is significant underreporting. I am an epidemiologist and what we are looking at here qualifies as an epidemic.”
Key Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation
Frighteningly, this epidemic is largely invisible. Elder abuse in general is difficult to detect because it happens in private settings and often goes unreported.
If the abuser is a family member, it makes the situation even more complex and agonizing.
However, sudden changes in a senior’s financial situation, from unexplained new credit cards to a loss in control over bank accounts, can be warning signs of exploitation. If relationships between a senior and caregiver seem tense, strained or argumentative, that can also be a signal.
Protecting Your Loved One From Elder Financial Abuse
The key to combating the problem lies in awareness. Individuals, health care professionals, and even senior living communities can keep an eye out for warning signs, and report cases of abuse to law enforcement or adult protective services.
The survey also suggests that, as a society, we need to provide more financial advising resources to seniors.
Over half of the experts polled said that the current resources available to seniors are of little to no effectiveness. They advocate establishing more financial counseling and education programs tailored to seniors and their families, delivered by properly credentialed advisors who thoroughly understand elder financial issues.
How are you protecting your loved ones from financial exploitation? Does your community offer financial advising programs for seniors? Share your story with us in the comments below.
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