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Financial abuse of elders and dependent adults

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Updated: 4/13/2007 6:35 pm
Financial abuse of elders or dependent adults occurs when a relative or acquaintance takes savings or other assets that have taken years to accumulate. Because agency caseworkers are usually trained as social workers who emphasize care giving, they may not recognize the problem. In addition, elderly victims may fail to report the abuse because of their own incapacity or shame. While the definition of financial exploitation varies among states, the one most commonly cited is illegal or improper use of an elder's or incapacitated adult's resources for profit or gain. The perpetrator is usually a relative, friend, or caregiver whom the elder trusts. Elders who are especially vulnerable to financial abuse are those who are physically dependent on a caregiver, who in turn isolates them from social and family contact; those who are losing interest in their affairs due to ailments; and bereaved widows or widowers whose spouses had conducted the financial business of the family. Once access to assets has been obtained, methods of exploitation include transferring property under power of attorney; converting the elder's bank accounts to joint accounts with the exploiter; altering a will or other inheritance documents; borrowing money on the senior's credit line or credit card; obtaining loans from the same bank holding the elderly person's account and pledging those accounts as collateral; or simply committing outright theft. Ways of stopping this abuse include alerting other family members; arranging for revocation of powers of attorney, or referring the elder or the elder's family to a lawyer. Most state statutes require professionals and groups to report suspected cases of abuse, neglect, or exploitation and impose penalties for the failure to do so.
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