Elder abuse isn’t limited solely to physical abuse and neglect. Sadly, financial abuse is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. Financial abuse can take on many forms and can be very difficult to spot in some cases. In some cases, the abuse can be outright theft. In other cases, they may be voluntarily giving someone money as a result of coercion or fraud. It can be committed by a family member or caretaker, or by someone the senior doesn’t even know, such as in the case of phone and email scams.
In this post, we hope to raise awareness of this issue and give you the tools to identify and address it.
The elderly are particularly prone to becoming victims of elder abuse, especially if they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Even if they are in full possession of their faculties, they often live alone with only minimal supervision. Being lonely, it’s easy for someone to gain their confidence and then take advantage of them.
Facing more and more dependency on others, seniors often don’t want to admit that they can’t keep up with managing their finances. Changes in technology – online banking, mobile apps – can also pose a challenge, creating additional confusion. As a result, it’s easy for them to fall prey to arrangements where they appear to be in control, but someone else is taking advantage of them.
Loneliness, confusion, and mental illness, separately or together, can make it very easy for someone to gain your senior’s trust and take unfair advantage of them.
While some cases of financial abuse are obvious, many abusers go to great lengths to conceal their efforts. Here are some red flags that may indicate your senior is the victim of financial abuse:
- Lack of knowledge about financial matters: your senior doesn’t know what’s going on with their financial affairs, doesn’t receive or can’t locate important financial documents, statements, etc.
- Lack of control over financial matters: total or partial delegation of control over financial matters to someone else, particularly when that person can make decisions without knowledge or input from the senior.
- Significant and sudden changes to estate documents: writing someone out of the will, out-of-character gifts or donations.
- Strange or sudden financial transactions: large transfers of money to other accounts, liquidation of investments, the sale of real estate.
- Sudden financial difficulties: delinquent accounts, cash flow issues, collection notices.
What You Can Do
Probably the most important thing you can do is to remain involved in your senior’s day-to-day life. Ask questions about how they are doing, help them keep up with the mail, and help them get to appointments. It may feel like you’re prying or trying to deprive them of their independence, but you’re not – you’re simply trying to protect them from those who would take advantage of them.
If you suspect that your senior has been a victim of financial abuse, you should probably contact the authorities, especially when the financial abuse constitutes outright theft. If you’re not sure whether you should contact the police, or if the police say they can’t help, you should consult with an elder abuse lawyer. They can help you make your case and give you advice as to how you should proceed.
Contact an Atlanta Elder Abuse Attorney
The lawyers at Slappey & Sadd have been helping families in cases of financial abuse since 1992. Call us at 404-255-6677 or email us via our online contact form in order to schedule a free consultation.