Survey: Financial abuse of elderly on the rise

By From page A9 | March 26, 2014

Financial abuse and exploitation of older Americans is on the rise, according to a new survey recently released by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

The survey, which also identified theft of money by family, friends, neighbors and caregivers as the most common types of abuse, comes on the heels of President Obama’s call for a new $25 million initiative to combat elder abuse as part of his budget.

NAPGCM surveyed 325 professional geriatric care managers in California and across the country about their experiences with financial abuse in their work with seniors. Major findings of the survey include that 71 percent of the care managers reported that financial abuse and/or exploitation of the elderly is a growing problem in their communities.

The top 5 types of financial abuse most commonly encountered are:

  • Theft of money or property by family/friend/neighbor (79 percent)
  • Theft of money or property by caretaker/ in-home care provider (75 percent)
  • Investment/securities schemes through the mail or phone (52 percent)
  • Home repair scams (45 percent)
  • Getting senior to sign a deed, will, power of attorney through deception (43 percent)

“Financial abuse of seniors is a disturbing and growing problem in our community. Families need to know the warning signs so they can protect their loved ones,” said Liz Caldwell, program manager at Elder Options in Placerville

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in 20 older adults indicated some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past. Most financial abuse goes undetected, as NAPSA estimates only 1 in 44 cases are reported. So it is crucial that family and loved ones know the warning signs. The NAPGCM survey asked professional geriatric care managers to identify the most reliable “red flags” that a senior might be the victim of financial abuse or exploitation.

The top five red flags identified are:

  • You and/or their bank notice unusual activity on bank accounts and/or credit cards that they can’t explain.
  • A new “best friend” has appeared who is becoming heavily involved in personal activities.
  • A friend, paid caregiver or trusted employee/vendor is isolating senior from others.
  • Another family member becomes secretive or defensive about parent’s finances.
  • Missing belongings or property are apparent.

The survey, which was conducted March 4-8, also identified a number of emerging schemes professional care managers are seeing more frequently now in their communities, including:

  • A new version of the “Jamaican lottery” scams in which someone posing as a new friend of the senior, often pretending to have romantic interests, tricks them into purchasing cash cards supposedly to send payment in order to receive their lottery “winnings.”
  • A rise in “caregivers” marrying seniors and then financially exploiting them.

Financial abuse of the elderly carries a major and direct cost to taxpayers as almost one in 10 financial abuse victims will turn to Medicaid as a direct result of their own monies being stolen from them. And President Obama’s budget plan released earlier this month contains a new $25 million effort to reduce elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.  The initiative would fund grants to states to pilot a new abuse reporting system and improved research to understand and prevent elder abuse.

To find a professional geriatric care manager in your community please visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website  and click on “Find a Care Manager.”

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