Elder Abuse: Fiction, Fact and Reality - PLG Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Injury Attorneys in California

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Elder Abuse: Fiction, Fact and Reality

Elder Abuse:  Fiction, Fact and Reality

Elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion per year and is most often perpetrated by family members and caregivers, according to a new report released by the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMI) entitled, Broken Trust: Elders, Family and Finances, which is accompanied by tip sheets for older adults and families on how to prevent such issues.

The report, produced in conjunction with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, states up to one million older Americans may be targeted yearly and that related costs like healthcare, social services, investigations, legal fees, prosecution, lost income and assets reach tens of millions of dollars annually. The study indicates that for each case of abuse reported, there are an estimated four or more that go unreported. The economic downturn may increase vulnerability. Family members and caregivers are the culprits in 55% of cases, although financial losses are higher with investment fraud scams.

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) suggests that the “typical” victim of financial elder abuse is between the ages of 70 and 89, white, female, frail and cognitively impaired. She is trusting of others and may be lonely or isolated, although reports show that there is a very diverse population of victims.

The 2006 national Survey of State Adult Protective Services revealed that victims range in estimated number from a low of 100,000 to a high of one million a year. It is believed that these numbers will grow with the aging population and their increasing net worth.

Types of Elder Finanical Exploitation

Elder financial abuse takes many forms, including, but not limited to: fraud (coupon, telemarketing, mail); repair and contracting scams; “sweetheart scams;” false/fraudulent advice from loan officers, stock brokers, insurance salespersons, accountants and bank officials; undue influence; illegal viatical settlements; abuse of powers of attorney and guardianship; identity theft; internet “phishing;” failure to fulfill contracted health care services; and Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

The report states that the justice and social services systems are often inadequately trained, staffed and funded to address elder financial abuse. Further, at times it is difficult to determine whether financial abuse occurred or if one unwittingly or knowingly made a poor financial decision. Generally under state jurisdiction, most states mention financial exploitation in their statutes, although what it constitutes, who is covered and who is accountable vary as widely as do the remedies. A bill before Congress since 2002, The Elder Justice Act, would increase awareness of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation at the national level and would train individuals from various disciplines, combat elder abuse and prosecute cases. An additional measure would create an Elder Justice Coordinating Council.

Underreporting is attributed to fear of government interference; parents protecting their children and family members; embarrassment and self-blame; a lack of realization that abuse has occurred; fear of being placed in a facility; fear of harm from the perpetrator; and a belief that nothing will be done or more money will be lost.

Additional Facts about Elder Abuse

  • Reports vary as to whether women or men are more vulnerable to financial abuse, but loneliness and isolation clearly leave one more exposed to theft. The average victim of elder abuse is a woman over the age of 75 who lives alone (48% of women over the age of 75, according to the Administration on Aging). Men are reported to be particularly vulnerable to the “sweetheart scam.”
  • 60% of substantiated Adult Protective Services (APS) cases of elder abuse involve an adult child; sons are 2.5 times more likely than other family members to take advantage of parents.
  • In addition to the obvious financial loss, long-term effects include credit problems, health issues, depression and the loss of independence.
  • Signs of abuse include indications of intimidation by or fear of a caregiver, isolation from family and friends, disheveled appearance, anxiety about finances, new “best friends” and missing belongings.

Elder Financial Abuse can be Prevented by the Following:

  1. Education about one’s rights and about the various types of consumer fraud and scams;
  2. Financial conservatorship and/or power of attorney for those who are vulnerable;
  3. Assignment of responsibility to a trusted outside person, if children are a concern;
  4. Additional media attention for this issue;
  5. Training financial professionals to properly assist older customers;
  6. Assistance from social services, medical/nursing personnel, government agencies;
  7. Reporting suspected cases of financial abuse to local authorities.

Call Steven Peck’s Premier legal toll free at 1-866-999-9085 to talk to an experienced elder abuse professional.

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorney Steven Peck

About the Author

Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.

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