The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and older has experienced some form of abuse in the past year. Financial abuse and exploitation is a growing, painful, and costly form of this abuse. The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial exploitation was estimated to be $2.9 billion in 2009, a 12% increase from 2008. Also, survivors of elder mistreatment suffer significantly higher levels of psychological distress than non victims. Seabury wants to provide you with tips and resources to help you spot and report abuse.
Financial abuse may sometimes start with family caregivers who borrow a little money from Dad’s bank account. The caregivers mean to pay it back but time gets away from them and they just forget or they just can’t get ahead enough to pay the money back. Sometimes a neighbor or “friend” asks for a loan from an older adult. Or perhaps a stranger tells Mom or Dad they have won a sweepstakes and all they need to do is send a small amount of money to cover processing costs. Elder financial exploitation can take these and many other forms including taking property, forging signatures, coercion or influencing a vulnerable older adult’s financial decisions.
According to the Federal Trade Commission here are some signs of financial abuse:
Look for sudden changes in the older person’s financial situation, such as:
- Suspicious changes in wills or powers of attorney – Out of the blue, your grandfather wills all of his belongings to his new nurse.
- Financial activity the person couldn’t have done herself – You discover repeated ATM withdrawals from your bedridden mother’s bank account.
- Bills not being paid – you see mail piling up on your neighbor’s desk.
- Significant withdrawals or unusual purchases – You notice charges for fancy electronics on your thrifty aunt’s credit card bill.
So what can you do if you spot any of these signs or are concerned that someone you know is being taking advantage of?
- If someone is in immediate danger, call the police – dial 911.
- If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone. Contact Adult Protective Services (APS)
- DC: 202-671-4200
- MD: 1-800-917-7383
- VA: 1-888-832-3858
- If you suspect abuse in a nursing home, contact your Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
- DC: 202-724-5622
- MD: 410-767-1100
- VA: 804-726-6624
- For areas outside of the DC metro area, you can find the APS and Long-Term Care Ombudsman numbers on the eldercare.gov website or by calling 800-677-1116.
Financial exploitation is one of the many challenges seniors and their families might face. Along with Adult Protective Services and your Long-Term Care Ombudsman program Seabury care managers also provide support to families who are concerned that a frail elder may be at risk of abuse and to older adults without family. Care Managers assess their clients, getting to know them well. They understand the signs of exploitation and can act as a protective barrier against exploitation. Contact Seabury Care Management’s free information and assistance HelpLine at 202-364-0020.