What Is Financial Elder Abuse?
Financial elder abuse involves taking advantage of the elderly and unfairly benefiting from their monetary resources. Family members, business associates, caregivers, and strangers sometimes financially abuse elders by taking advantage of their trust.
Tactics involved in financial elder abuse include the unauthorized use of an older person’s assets, gaining power of attorney by way of trickery, or engaging in fraud.
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Understanding Financial Elder Abuse
Financial elder abuse often involves family members who think they are entitled to an elder’s assets. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, part of the U.S. Administration on Aging, 41 in 1,000 elders report financial abuse, a rate higher than that for emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. The organization also notes this figure typically is under-reported. The center believes abusers exploit as many as 5 million elders financially each year, costing senior citizens $3 billion annually.
Individuals at risk for financial elder abuse include seniors who depend on personal care from others, those who recently lost a spouse who handled the finances, and those living in long-term care facilities.
Financial elder abuse sometimes involves threats. For example, family members who withhold needed care for their elders or warn they’ll send an elder to a nursing home unless that person signs over financial assets are engaging in elder abuse.
Warning signs of financial elder abuse include rapid account drawdowns or other unusual financial behavior, as well as new close friends who seem to know a lot about an elder’s personal and financial life. Other signs include the opening of unknown accounts, increased account activity, and suspicious withdrawals. Moreover, recent and unknown changes to wills, trusts, mortgages, deeds, and property titles all provide warning signs.
Where to Find Help in Cases of Financial Elder Abuse
Resources for those who think they are being exploited include a service called The Eldercare Locator, which can be reached at www.eldercare.gov, or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
In addition, most states have some sort of adult protective services agency. The National Adult Protective Services Association web site at www.napsa-now.org/get-help-in-your-area also places seniors in touch with needed resources to counteract financial abuse.
Additionally, all states have long-term care ombudsmen that advocate for residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Many have experience dealing with financial elder abuse. Individuals in these facilities can go to www.ltcombudsman.org/ombudsman to find an ombudsman.
Lastly, it’s not unheard of to simply call or go to a local police station and ask for help.