An unfortunate but not uncommon occurrence for older loved ones and family members is elder financial abuse, defined as someone illegally using an elder’s money or belongings for their own personal use. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), it can cost victims as much as $36.5 billion each year.
This type of abuse is also difficult to detect because it can be accomplished by family, trusted friends and caregivers.
If you care for an older loved one or par ent, an immediate step you can take is to be aware of the signs. If prevention isn’t possible, intervening quickly is the next best course of action.
Signs of elder financial abuse
Having conversations with your loved ones about elder financial abuse can also help educate them about the risk. Encourage proactive and open discussions whenever possible.
Signs of elder financial abuse can include the following:
- Sudden changes in an individual’s financial situation
- Discovery of fraudulent signatures on financial documents
- Unpaid bills
- Unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns
- Unusual changes in an individual’s will or other financial documents
The most common forms of elder financial abuse
Understanding the sources of abuse can be helpful in remaining alert and aware. While it is important to note that most family, caregivers and friends will not take advantage of an older adult, the fact that often the abusers are known to the individual is what makes it more difficult to stop and can include:
- Family members
- Hired caregivers
- Consumer fraud cases that target elders
- Financial predators who gain trust and then con the elder out of their money or property
Why elder financial abuse is often not reported
Compounding the difficulty of eliminating elder financial abuse is that it is often not reported by the older adult being abused. The reasons for an individual’s silence can be very compelling:
- They don’t want to cause trouble for a family member or bring embarrassment on to the family
- They depend on the caregiver who is abusing them
- There is a fear of retaliation
- There is fear they will lose their independence if the family is aware they have been taken advantage of
- They may lack the capacity to know how to report the situation
How to help prevent elder financial abuse
Measures for preventing elder financial abuse can be strengthened when both the older adult and their primary caregivers and adult children are prepared to take action. Consider the following recommendations:
- Become educated about the risk of elder financial abuse, common methods used and what to do if you suspect it is occurring
- For older adults, taking care of your health and remaining alert can decrease the risk of becoming a victim
- Stay active in the community and connected with friends and family. Social isolation has often been connected to elder financial abuse
- Carefully appoint a power of attorney or consider a corporate trustee or geriatric care manager
- Open your own mail if possible
- Do not give out any personal information over the phone
- Do not open the door to strangers or invite them into your house
- Keep all financial documents secure
- Take photographs of all valuables and keep them in a secured place
- Use direct deposit for all checks you receive.
- Carefully screen and check references of anyone you hire
- Have access to your own phone
- Review your financial statements regularly
- Review your will periodically
- Become familiar with all of your personal and financial rights
- Don’t make hurried or rushed financial decisions. Take time to think it over or talk to a trusted family member
Life at Eskaton Communities
The word Eskaton means “dawn of a new day.” In our communities, we see each day as an opportunity to enhance the lives of our residents. We’ve been serving the Sacramento region and Northern California for over 50 years.
The Eskaton Difference starts with our life-enriching programs and collaborative partnerships. With a national reputation for innovation, we focus on creating communities that provide our residents with everything they need for purposeful living.
We invite you to visit one of our award-winning communities to discover some of the benefits we offer, such as:
- Private residences
- Delicious and nutritious meals
- Social opportunities to meet and make new friends
- Creative activities and therapies
- Fitness centers and exercise classes
- Housekeeping services
- Transportation services
- 24-hour staffing
- Free Wi-Fi
- And much, much more!
If you’re considering whether senior living could be the best choice for you or a loved one, we’re here to answer any questions that you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary information, Just the Facts: Your Guide to Assisted Living. To schedule a personalized tour, call us at 1-866-ESKATON (1-866-375-2866) or visit eskaton.org.