There are various types of elder abuse that occur against the older generation. As the baby boomer population increases, this sect of individuals will encounter new challenges and elder abuse will unfortunately expand into new territory. Different types of abuse consist of physical abuse, emotional abuse, exploitation, neglect and abandonment. Financial abuse is where there is misuse or withholding of an older person’s resources by another individual, and is a problem that persists at higher levels and with more complexity than in previous years.
According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Also, some of its estimates range as high as $5 million dollars for those abused annually. What is worse is that many cases are not reported to the authorities.
The National Center for Elder Abuse and Administration on Aging have compiled lists of various warning signs of exploitation and various forms of financial abuse as follows:
- sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder;
- the inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card;
- unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card;
- abrupt changes in a Will or other financial documents;
- unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions;
- substandard care being provided or bills unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources;
- discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions;
- sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder’s affairs and possessions;
- unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family;
- the provision of services that are not necessary; and
- an elder’s report of financial exploitation.
It is important to keep a vigilant eye over your loved ones to ensure they are not being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous company or individual. Additional ways to prevent financial abuse are avoid disclosure of personal information on the telephone, maintain security features with online transactions, and review and update your estate planning documents.
If you do suspect financial abuse, there are different avenues to pursue depending on the nature of the situation. Many states have penalties for perpetrators in order to protect victims. Also, educational training is at the forefront for law enforcement, prosecutors, financial institutions and various agencies. In addition, you may contact your local Adult Protective Services office, the National Center for Elder Abuse, or the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice. Further, if the individual resides in a nursing home or similar facility, the long-term care ombudsmen would be a resource to contact for assistance.
Preservation of assets and protecting the elderly are important societal goals. Recognizing signs of abuse and understanding the effect it has on seniors will help to prevent exploitation of the vulnerable and maintain quality of life.
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