It’s impossible to know the full extent of financial exploitation and abuse of elders.
The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) estimates that only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported. But even based on what little is known, the NAPSA’s statistics are shocking. Ninety percent of abusers are people who are known and trusted by the elderly individual, including caregivers or others who have access to them in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
The elderly are frequent targets of financial exploitation for many reasons. In general, they hold a disproportionate percentage of the country’s wealth. Due to declining physical and mental health, as well as failure to keep up with technology and financial developments, they often rely on others to manage their money. Many feel socially isolated and appreciate the company of these financial “helpers.” Even if they realize they’re being exploited, they may fear that vital things such as food, shelter, and health care will be denied if they fail to cooperate.
Types of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse encompasses many behaviors. Some that might affect senior citizens include:
- Forging signatures
- Cashing checks without permission
- Stealing money or possessions
- Wrongly convincing the resident into signing contracts, wills or other documents
- Improperly gaining or using the power of attorney
- Stealing checks or using the resident’s ATM card to withdraw money for the abuser’s use
- Threatening to attack, abandon, or neglect the resident’s needs if he or she doesn’t cooperate financially
Financial abuse of elders does not always begin with malicious intent. Sometimes the helper initially has good intentions, but becomes tempted to skim money from the resident after noticing how easy it would be.
While caregivers may be the common culprits for financial exploitation of seniors, there are many opportunities for other people to find ways to exploit seniors. These can include family members, attorneys, friends, neighbors, financial consultants, medical personnel, former business associates or even trusted spiritual advisors. For example, in situations involving family members, financial abuse is often a pattern over time and not just a single occurrence.
Signs of Financial Exploitation
How do you know if a loved one is being financially abused? There could be obvious signs, such as valuable jewelry or large amounts of money suddenly missing. Or the abuse could be less noticeable such as small but regular cash withdrawals being made from a bank account. Here are a few possible warning signs:
- Sudden changes in the resident’s will, titles, or other financial documents
- Unexplained bank withdrawals or money transfers to another person
- An unusual number of checks written to a caregiver, financial advisor or other professional
- A sudden reluctance to discuss finances
- Names added to the resident’s bank signature card
- Missing financial documents or records of bank transactions
- Implausible explanations from nursing home staff related to financial matters
- New and overly affectionate “best friends”
- Large ATM withdrawals, especially when accompanied by another person
- Lack of awareness about financial matters
- The caregiver, “best friend,” etc. being unwilling to leave the elder alone during family visits, medical appointments or other times when the resident could seek help
What to Do
Suspecting that trusted individuals might be exploiting your loved one can be heartbreaking. It is important to keep your loved one’s best interest at heart and take action. Document any signs or incidents you believe to be elder abuse. Next, speak with your loved one. See if they are aware of the situation.
If your loved one is being financially exploited, contact Powers Taylor.
We will help you determine the next best steps to keep your elder safe. Call us to determine a plan of action.