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Elder Financial Abuse, Exploitation A Real Risk for Nursing Home Patients

Elder financial abuse is one of the least-studied aspects of nursing home mistreatment. But it is a major problem that could result in depletion of a lifetime of financial assets and valuable inheritances.

One study published in 2010 by the American Journal of Public Health revealed 1 in 20 older adults suffered elder financial abuse by a family member. Although close relatives were often the primary perpetrator, paid caregivers were often perpetrators as well.

Older Americans have several factors that make them vulnerable to financial abuse by caregivers, including:

  • Significant assets (people over 50 control 70 percent of country’s wealth);
  • Diminished cognitive capacity or vulnerability to use of physical force to gain compliance;
  • Lack of active family support system to monitor these issues.

And now, another issue has been identified by researchers at Allianz Life, whose insurance, annuities and other financial services are often extended to seniors. What study authors of “Safeguarding Our Seniors” study found in an analysis of some 2,000 Americans over 65, along with family and friends between the ages of 40 and 64, was that only 11 percent of elders were concerned that financial abuse was a problem. They were largely confident they personally had the resources necessary to prevent victimization of financial abuse.

But that same level of confidence wasn’t shared by family and friends. Only 58 percent believed their elder loved one had the appropriate resources to prevent financial exploitation of their loved one.

Further, 90 percent of all elders said they were confident they could recognize financial abuse if it were happening to them. Only 1 percent reported they could not recognize it. But meanwhile, 78 percent of the elders’ younger family and friends had confidence their loved one could identify financial abuse as it was happening. More than a fifth said they didn’t know or weren’t sure.

The reason these results matter is because if older relatives are overly-confident about their ability to avoid financial exploitation, they may not recognize it as it’s happening. In fact, the statistics show us that it’s a prevalent issue. Still, many elderly don’t think they are susceptible to it.

Research has shown that the average victim of elderly financial abuse loses about $30,000. In about 1 in 10 cases, the amount lost in financial fraud cases exceeds $100,000. That can devastate one’s chances for a comfortable retirement. In fact, when it occurs at the hands of a trusted friend or relative, it may even be a major catalyst for why someone ends up in a nursing home in the first place.

Studies conducted by geriatric medical professors show that an older person who is a victim of financial abuse is four times more likely to end up in a nursing home.

And yet, elder folks often do not report it when it happens. They may not be clear on what’s happening. They may be confused or believe the person victimizing them actually has a legitimate claim to that money. Or in some cases, they may be ashamed about being taken advantage of or believe it will be seen as a sign they can no longer retain their independence. Victims may also be afraid, as financial exploitation is correlated with physical abuse as well.

Although instances of elder financial abuse are expected to rise as the population ages, awareness has increased too, and that can go a long way toward prevention. When loved ones and other caregivers can recognize the red flags, it may help to confront it before it’s too late.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Why seniors don’t fear elder financial abuse, Nov. 10, 2015, By Kelley Holland, CNBC

More Blog Entries:

Nursing Home Worker Admits Sexual Abuse of Alzheimer’s Patient, Police Say, Nov. 3, 2015, Hollywood Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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