Financial exploitation of the elderly may be the most common form of elder abuse, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Financial exploitation, also called financial abuse, is the fraudulent, illegal, improper, or unauthorized use of an individual’s assets, such as money, benefits, or property, for personal financial gain.
According to Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America, elder financial abuse can be particularly devastating to victims because it is often committed by known and trusted family members, friends, and caregivers. The problem of financial exploitation is likely much larger than what is documented. A study cited by the SEC found that for every reported case of financial exploitation, another 44 may go unreported.
Financial exploitation can happen to seniors who live at home, as well as those who live in residential care facilities. Family members of nursing home residents need to know the risk factors and signs of financial abuse in order to know how to protect their loved one from financial exploitation.
Financial Exploitation and the Elderly
Some of the same reasons your loved one may require nursing home care are also factors that increase their risk of being a victim of financial exploitation. Chronic physical and mental health conditions may make residents completely dependent on their caregivers. Cognitive decline is one of the primary risk factors. According to the National Center on Law & Elder Rights, 50 percent of people with dementia will experience some type of abuse.
Older adults may be targets of financial abuse because of the wealth and retirement benefits they have accumulated throughout their lifetimes. Another risk factor is isolation. Residents who have little interaction with friends and family are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of by their caregivers.
It is important to recognize the signs of financial abuse so that you can know how to protect nursing home residents from financial exploitation. The following may indicate that your loved one’s assets are being misused:
- Signs of financial activity your loved one could not have done themselves. For example, a nursing home resident is not likely to be making ATM withdrawals.
- Unpaid bills that previously were paid.
- Different signatures on checks and financial documents.
- Missing funds or valuables that have disappeared without explanation.
- New relatives or “friends” who suddenly show interest in your loved one’s rights, affairs, and possessions.
- Sudden or unexplained transfers of assets from your loved one to another individual.
- Sudden changes in your loved one’s will, financial documents, bank accounts, or financial practices.
It is likely the practice of elder financial abuse will worsen as the worldwide population of older adults quickly increases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global population of adults aged 60 and over is expected to double. By 2050, there will be an estimated 2 billion people in this demographic.
Sadly, financial exploitation is not the only type of abuse inflicted on the elderly. If you believe your loved one is the victim of financial exploitation at the hands of their nursing home, other forms of abuse may also be taking place.
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Nursing Home Abuse
In addition to financial abuse, nursing home abuse may also be:
- Physical: Physical abuse is any type of physical force or violence, including hitting, kicking, slapping, or burning.
- Emotional: Also called psychological abuse, this is any verbal or non-verbal behavior that inflicts harm on a resident. This may include name-calling, threatening, or using physical or social isolation against a resident.
- Sexual: This type of abuse is any type of unwanted sexual interaction, including sexual contact, coercion, or harassment.
- Neglect: Neglect also is a form of abuse. Neglect is the failure to meet a resident’s basic needs for shelter, food, water, health care, and clothing. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional. Sometimes, neglect happens when a nursing home is understaffed or the staff is poorly trained.
Signs your loved one is suffering abuse may include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Excessive falls and accidents
- Changes in behavior, such as acting depressed or violent and aggressive
- Poor hygiene
- Malnourishment and dehydration
- Unexplained weight loss
High staff turnover, frantic and disorganized staff members, or phone calls and resident call bells that go unanswered could also point to problems with your loved one’s nursing home facility.
How to Report Abuse
If you suspect your loved one is being exploited financially or suffering from any other form of nursing home abuse, you should file a report with the nursing home’s administration. Abuse is illegal, and you may also wish to file a complaint with your local law enforcement agency.
An attorney with Ben Crump Law, PLLC can help you learn more about how to protect nursing home residents from financial exploitation, and our team may also be able to help you seek justice for your loved one. Call our offices today at 800-959-1444.