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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Financial exploitation can happen to any elder

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotExecutive Director Roseann MartocciaJune 15 marked the annual recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder abuse means different things, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and self-neglect as well as financial exploitation. Financial exploitation of an elder by another person is perhaps one of the most underreported types of elder abuse.

What is elder financial exploitation?

Financial exploitation often involves a person the elder knows such as a family member or a person the elder has grown to trust such as a caretaker. It may also involve a person who holds legal authority such as a power of attorney. Elders themselves may be reluctant to tell others about financial exploitation as they feel ashamed, trapped, scared, frustrated or helpless.

Financial exploitation can impact an elder in many ways, including access to food, their medications, and utilities, ability to maintain their home, pay their taxes or get the care they need in their home or in a nursing facility.

What are some signs that an elder is being abused financially?

There are some places in the community where clues to financial exploitation may come to light. Changes in behavior, spending patterns, or going to the bank with a new person to make transactions may be signals that something unfavorable to the elder and their finances is occurring. Likewise, if the elder describes falling on hard times financially or if their home is falling into disrepair when money has not previously been a problem can indicate that someone is having undue influence. Cognitive impairment or dementia can complicate the elder’s understanding of their finances or if the person helping them to manage their bills and money is doing so in their best interest.

What can I do about elder financial exploitation?

If you know of an elder who you think is being taken advantage of financially by another party, make a report to Elder Protective Services. Protective Services, first and foremost, works with the elder to alleviate risk, protect their remaining assets and maintain their independence in the community. Should the matter involve criminal activity, Protective Services will work with law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office. If you see red flags, circumstances that don’t seem right or observations that make you or the elder uneasy, don’t hesitate to make a report. By making a report, you may be helping to keep an elder safe or prevent them from losing any more of their financial resources. Prevention is the best way to avoid the start or continuation of elder financial exploitation. If Protective Services becomes involved, they will work with the elder to provide interventions and minimize further financial risk.

How do I report elder abuse?

As of June 30, 2017, all reports will be taken by calling 1-800-922-2275 anytime (24/7). The Executive Office of Elder Affairs has moved to a centralized system for reporting. Once a report is made, all Protective Services work will be done locally by a Protective Services Agency such as LifePath.