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26 July 2011

Elder Abuse - When Borrowing Becomes Against the Law

Topics: Elder Abuse

As the baby boomer population passes the age of 65, the elder population is ever growing. In conjunction with this growth is the increase of elderly Americans suffering abuse in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities. By learning some signs and symptoms of elder abuse and how to act on behalf of an elderly person who is being abused, the abuse can not only stop, but be prevented.

One type of abuse, which is often overlooked, is financial exploitation.  Today’s troubled economy coupled with a societal expectation of entitlement is leading to more and more family members and care givers engaging in the unauthorized use of an elderly person’s funds or property.  This action involves things as simple as misuse of an elder’s personal checks, credit cards, or accounts; outright theft of cash, income checks, or household goods; the forging of the elder’s signature; and engaging in identity theft.  

There are several signs to look for, when elder abuse by financial exploitation is suspected.  First, determine if there are significant withdrawals from the elder’s account(s).  Be aware of any sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition.  While the next sign may be hard to identify when an elder suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, listen and investigate the facts if there is a claim of items or cash missing from the senior’s household.  

Other pertinent signs are unexpected changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies, or the addition of a person to the elder’s bank signature card/account.  If bills are suddenly not being paid, it may not be the elder’s fault, but instead may be a sign of abuse.  If the elder had the funds to pay bills in the past and is not in need of a guardian due to any incapacitation issue, take note of any unpaid bills or transfer of assets, even ATM withdrawals. 

If elder abuse is suspected, the time to act is immediately.  By taking action to stop elder abuse by financial exploitation, you may also limit losses as a health care provider to your facility, and ensure the elder’s care is properly paid.  Make a record of what is observed, advise family members you deem can be trusted, and other people with authority over the elder.  In the U.S., you can also call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.  This number can provide local agency assistance.

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