Elder abuse can manifest itself in many forms, but perhaps the most difficult to detect is that of financial exploitation.
While the nightly news may bring to light the most recent “scam” to hit a community, this form of abuse often happens behind closed doors between the victim and someone considered trustworthy and dependable, whether family or professional.
As the demand for in home care continues to grow as our population ages, it is imperative that you do your research when hiring professional help. Follow up with loved ones regularly, and maintain open lines of communication with their professional caretaker.
Often, the victim believes the abuser has his or her best interests at heart, and is without the mental faculties to distinguish right from wrong. The victim may be unaware of any wrongdoing. In many cases, they have been misled to give up access to personal financial information, including credit cards, bank accounts, and even Power of Attorney status.
In some cases, the offender will call, email or send a letter pretending to be a legitimate professional or even family member to try to convince the senior to give them money or share personal financial information.
It has been suggested that for every report of abuse, five incidents go unreported. That is why it is so important to know the signs of financial exploitation:
- Significant withdrawals from bank accounts
- Items or cash missing from home
- Changes in wills, titles, etc.
- Forging of the elder’s signature
- Unnecessary services, goods or subscriptions
- Financial activity that could not have been done by the elder, such as ATM withdrawals when the account holder is bedridden
Suspected abuse of any kind should be reported immediately. The reporting agencies in each state are different, but every state has a service designated to receive and investigate allegations of elder abuse and neglect. Even if these agencies determine that there is no abuse, only the potential for abuse, they will make referrals for counseling. There are several resources available:
- Call 911 if a person is in immediate danger.
- ElderCare Locator: Call 800-677-1116 or visit www.eldercare.gov.
- National Adult Protective Services Association: http://www.apsnetwork.org/Abuse/index.html