It isn’t uncommon to hear stories of elderly people being physically abused in nursing homes or by loved ones who take care of them in their home. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are people in the world who will treat some of society’s most vulnerable individuals so cruelly. However, a much less talked about form of elder abuse is when it is financial in nature. Just because this form of abuse is usually non-violent, doesn’t mean it isn’t still a form of abuse. No one should have to worry about being taken advantage of by a loved one or other person they trusted to care for and protect them.
In this blog, you’ll be educated on what financial abuse of the elderly may look like in different environments. Then, you’ll learn how to look for some of the signs of elder financial abuse, whether you are the individual in question or it is a loved one you believe is being taken advantage of.
What Is Financial Abuse Of The Elderly?
The National Council on Aging defines elder financial abuse as the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s (60 year and older) resources by another. It is estimated that nearly 5 million Americans (1 in 10) are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims is estimated at nearly $40 billion. The NCOA also reports that the abuser is a family member – such as a spouse or adult child – in 60% of cases.
There are several factors that make older adults more vulnerable to abuse. The first is the elder’s mental capacity or impairment. If they have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they are much more likely to face abuse or neglect. Another factor which allows abuse to continue is social isolation, which leaves the victim with few points of contact in their daily life. Finally, as sad as it is to say, the victim may simply have so much faith in their caretaker that they think it would never happen to them, and therefore ignore any signs that it’s taking place.
Abuse In Nursing Homes, Other Care Facilities, Or By Care Service Providers
Elders in nursing homes, other care facilities, or who have a care service provider that comes to their residence may have physical and mental conditions which limit their daily life. In the last year, 2 in 3 staff members of nursing homes reported their own abuse of patients. Financial abuse from sources like these may look like:
- Unusual activity in a person’s bank account, such as frequent or unexplained withdrawals
- Newly established or changed powers of attorney that the individual doesn’t understand or remember
- Individuals who want to accompany the person to the bank or ATM
- The disappearance of money or valuables from the victim’s room or home
- Overcharging for a service the individual does not need
Abuse In The Victim’s Home
As already stated, abuse of an elder is much more likely to come from a loved one or other trusted individual who has a close relationship with them. When the victim is facing abuse from this source, they may be much less likely to report it for a few reasons. The first is that, even though their relative has wronged them, they don’t want them to get in trouble. The second is that they may simply be too fearful to tell anyone about the abuse that is occuring.
Financial abuse from a relative may look like:
- A sudden change in bank account information
- Discovering unpaid bills or letters from collection agencies, though you believe the elder to have sufficient funds to cover them
- Relatives who were not previously involved in the elder’s life suddenly claiming a right to their property
- A sudden transfer or money or property to another individual
- Sudden changes in spending habits
- Sudden changes in wills or trusts
- Suspicious signatures on transactions
Abuse From Outside Sources
It is less likely – though still entirely possible – that an elder will be taken advantage of by an outside source such as a scam. In the digital age, many of these threats tend to come from through their phones, email, or the internet. Because they may be less familiar with technology, the elderly often fall victim to a scam of this nature. The most common scams that the elderly face are:
- Government impersonation scams
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams
- Robocalls and phone calls
- Computer tech support scams
- Romance scams
- Investment scams
- Medicare and health insurance scams
- Phishing emails or text messages
- And more!
What Can Be Done To Legally Combat Financial Abuse?
If you have a suspicion or have recently discovered that you are being financially abused, you probably feel incredibly violated and helpless. You deserve for justice to be served and to be recompensed for what has been taken from you. Your first steps should be reporting the abuse to Pennsylvania Adult Protective Services and your local police or sheriff’s office. You will need to provide detailed information regarding the abuse, the victim, and the suspect. You should also follow the same steps if you are reporting abuse on your elder loved one’s behalf.
Seeking the aid of an experienced elder law attorney is the most important step aside from communicating with local law enforcement. They will be able to assist you with:
- Filing cases to recover your money
- Analyzing your finances after they’ve suffered
- Freezing bank accounts or other transactions
- Filing for a restraining order or order of protection
- Revising or establishing wills and trusts
- Revising or establishing powers of attorney
- And more!
To Learn More About Your Legal Options Regarding Elder Abuse, Call Daly Law Offices Today
As a firm dedicated to fulfilling the needs of elderly Americans, we are deeply saddened when we hear of any individual being taken advantage of in such a heartless fashion. We are passionate about ensuring that the elderly are protected in every way: financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. We will work tirelessly to correct the damage that has been done and prevent future damage from occurring. Our lead attorney, Joshua N. Daly, has over 15 years of experience in the elder law practice. Call today to schedule your free consultation and let us advocate on your behalf!