Financial Elder Abuse – A Growing Problem?

One of the problems gaining prominence in the community health scene is the mistreatment of the elderly, at home or in the institutions in which they are confined. Unfortunately, elder abuse occurs every day in the U.S! Sadly, seniors may not even know that they’re being abused. They may hide signs for fear of what might happen if someone finds out. Look for signs of elder abuse and be careful in your work. Remember that abuse can occur without signs or clues and that some signs may be caused by something other than abuse. Even if you’re not sure, it’s best to play it safe and follow up on any suspicions of elder abuse.

Mistreatment of seniors can take many forms, including:

  • Abandonment and neglect;

  • Involuntary isolation;

  • Intimidation, humiliation, and harassment;

  • Threats of punishment;

  • Pinching, hitting, slapping, kicking; deprivation or any type of corporal punishment;

  • Sexual assault, coercion, or harassment;

  • Verbal abuse, or any oral, written language;

  • Gestures that include derogatory terms, regardless of the person’s ability to listen or understand.

These types of abuse can be inflicted by a trusted caregiver or by a scammer on the outside. The caregiver, often a close family member, uses their position of influence to establish control over the elder’s budget or property and may rob the victim’s accounts, use their credit cards or personal checks, cash social security, or other income checks for their own use, or steal valuable items from the senior’s household. Con artists target the elderly through many types of fraudulent schemes through telemarketing, the internet, or even in person. It is generally acknowledged that seniors’ financial exploitation is a growing problem, but why is this form of elder abuse occurring more and more frequently?

As a percentage of the populace as a whole, the senior age group is getting larger every day. The sheer number of older adults who may be targeted for mistreatment is a factor. Abusers know that this large group holds a disproportionately higher share of accumulated wealth due to their many years of earning a living, saving, and investing. These facts, combined with the potential abuser’s harsh economic times faced by the potential abuser, increase the likelihood for financial elder abuse.

Some sociologists claim that proximity in the family to assets or wealth can create a stronger sense of entitlement. A son, daughter, or grandchild may begin to believe that they have an immediate claim to the elder’s money or possessions because of family ties. They may even convince the victim that it is within the family member’s rights to control certain assets in return for taking care of the senior.

Abusers of the elderly usually count on the victim’s isolation to carry out the mistreatment. Whether it be a family member or a paid caregiver, if the senior depends on only one person for most or all of their care and well being, the situation could be ripe for financial and other abuse. It is typical for family units to become more and more separated in today’s society, increasing the chances that the elder is left with only one caregiver, with little or no oversight by other family or friends. If the senior’s family members are not in regular communication with each other, it is even easier for the abuse to go undetected.

Financial elder abuse is a severe concern and regrettably becoming more commonplace as societal norms change and our population ages. It does not matter the economic level of the person who exercises it or suffers it. Abuse violates the fundamental rights of people, such as freedom, property, privacy, free expression, health, and life; therefore, it is everyone’s problem, and it is society as a whole that can and should consider the issue of elder abuse. Understanding why exploitation occurs is the first step in preventing this and other abuse of our valued senior citizens. If you believe that financial elder abuse might occur, you should immediately contact a financial elder abuse lawyer. With proper legal assistance, you might determine better what has actually happened and what options you may have to remedy the situation.

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