Financial exploitation and abuse of an elderly person is a crime that is on the rise in the United States. This is becoming increasingly common and it can be hard to detect—and even harder to prove—as the abuser is often a close friend, relative, or primary caretaker. According to the National Adult Protection Services, only 1 in 44 cases of senior financial exploitation is reported.
The situation becomes even more difficult when the victim’s cognitive functions are compromised, or if he or she will not allow access to any financial records that may prove the crime. Often, family members want to avoid confrontation and prefer not to get the police involved in the matter. However, this allows the abusers to get away with their actions and endangers the financial well-being of the senior. If you suspect that an elderly person is being exploited financially by a caretaker, relative, or close friend, the best thing you can do is to report it. You may choose to remain anonymous, but in order for authorities to be able to assist the senior, you will need to provide the senior’s home address and contact information, as well as the suspected abuser’s home address and contact information.
What are Signs to Watch For?
There are some common signs of elderly financial abuse, including a sudden change in the senior’s financial activity patterns. If you suddenly observe large sums of money being withdrawn from a checking account or additional names appearing in the checking account as a joint owner, it may be worth questioning the senior person about their reasons behind such activities. It is not unusual for caregivers or persons close to the senior, such as children, grandchildren, or other relatives, to pressure the senior into adding them as a joint owner of a checking account on the premise that it will be easier to administer the elderly person’s bills and payments, but this also makes it easier for any suspected abusers to take advantage of the senior and use the money for their own gain.
Another sign of possible elder abuse is when he or she is financially able to pay for adequate care for him or herself and yet does not seem to be receiving the proper care. If a caregiver who is also a relative has personal interest in preserving more of the senior’s estate in order to inherit a larger amount when the person passes away, he or she might be trying to provide only the bare minimum level of care for that senior. Limiting a senior’s access to proper healthcare constitutes a form of abuse.
What Can Be Done?
If you have a senior relative or friend whom you suspect may be the victim of financial exploitation or abuse, it is important to report the case to local authorities. In addition, a Clarksville estate planning attorney may be able to provide valuable insight on how to protect a senior’s assets and his or her personal well-being, using estate planning tools and documents, such as a power of attorney or a living will. Crow Estate Planning and Probate, PLC can handle all your elder law and estate planning matters. If you are concerned about the well-being of a senior citizen in your family, contact our office for a consultation to learn your options.