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How to Avoid Elder Financial Abuse

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Elder care and abuse

Power of attorney, assisted living, living will, revocable trusts, and durable power of attorney are all terms that baffle the elderly and those who care for them.

Elder financial abuse

Financial decisions can be overwhelming.

How can an elder’s finances be protected if an individual’s health and mind begin to fail? What if an unscrupulous person, whether a family member, a caregiver, or a complete stranger, exploits a senior through charm or fear tactics?

Financial exploitation, among other pitfalls, can be avoided with planning according to Hannah Rues, founder of ConciergeCare, Inc. Elders’ finances are better protected with careful legal preparation. However, even with proper preparation, seniors are at risk.

According to a government report, Money smart for older adults: Prevent financial exploitation, “Older Adults are prime targets for financial exploitation both by persons they know and trust and by strangers. Financial exploitation has been called ‘the crime of the 21st century’ with one study suggesting that older Americans lost at least $2.9 billion to financial exploitation by a broad spectrum of perpetrators in 2010.”

Signs of Financial Abuse

Mild cognitive impairment, possibly due to grieving, can be a contributing factor. As people age and lose physical abilities, they may get lonely, opening them up to close or distant predators. If they are trusting and polite, the risk is greater.

Elder financial abuseFor instance, a caregiver may have an addiction creating a predisposition to steal. The elder may be dependent on the caregiver, increasing feelings of indebtedness or helplessness or fear.

Financial ignorance and being unprepared are also common causes. When financial abuse happens, many elders may be hesitant or scared to report the abuse.

How do you know if someone is being taken advantage of?

Look for red flags, such as:

  • The person’s life circumstances do not match his or her financial holdings.
  • Large withdrawals are being made from accounts.
  • Accounts are being switched.
  • Unusual ATM activity is occurring.
  • Signatures on checks don’t match the elder’s.

Preventing elder financial abuse

elderly fnancial abuseFinancial abuse is devastating emotionally, socially, and physically. Often this exploitation of the elderly results in:

  • loss of the ability to live independently
  • declining health
  • broken trust
  • even fractured familiesVarious government agencies can help stop elder abuse. Use them. Contact local police, the nearest Area Agency on Aging, the Attorney General’s Office,, an elder law attorney, and the Federal Trade Commission. Reporting early can help reduce the chances of a decreased quality of life for the elderly.This blog was first posted on Concierge Care and subsequently on Sage-ing KC.
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Author: Martha Childers

Martha Childers, EdS, LPC is a multicultural psychotherapist specializing in couples, grief and caregiver stress. Martha is a licensed professional counselor in Missouri and Kansas. She received her masters and education specialist degrees in counseling psychology from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. She practiced Zen through a variety of Japanese traditional arts for 3-1/2 years. Since that time, mindfulness has been an integral part of her life. Her interest in human nature, beliefs, and life styles led her to become a counselor.

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