Elder abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, confinement, passive neglect, willful deprivation, and financial exploitation. One in 10 Americans aged 60 years and older have experienced some form of elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year, with only one in 14 cases of abuse reported to authorities, the NCOA reports.
Abusers can be both women and men. Most abused elders are financially exploited by their family members or caregivers. “The major mistake elders make putting whoever is handling their finances as a joint owner on their bank accounts,” Nicole DeMarco Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Officer Fraud Manager at NexTier Bank said. “That gives them full access to their account and there is nothing we (as a bank) can do.”
“Instead, elders should put their family member or caregiver as a Power of Attorney (POA). Making a note that a caregiver can review and monitor their accounts,” DeMarco added. “POAs are good, very easy to come across, and easy to retract. They are easy to spot regularities from a banking perspective. The relationship to the elder is usually on there too.”
Elder abuse is multifaceted. It can happen to anyone, and elders often victimized by those they least expect.
Scammers Prey on the Vulnerable
A concerned daughter said her mother gave over a half a million dollars to her “boyfriend”. The mother mortgaged her house to invest in the boyfriend’s jewelry business, writing checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. She even opened credit cards and charged over $20,000 at a time. Thankfully, her late husband safeguarded most of her assets with a trust. Her struggle with alcoholism complicated things, enabling her to more easily buy into the lies her so-called boyfriend told her.
Duped by His Own Son, a Businessman Loses Everything
A successful businessman suffered two strokes, starting at the age of 60. His son moved in after the second stroke to help care for him. The son convinced his parents it would be healthier for them to relocate to a warmer climate. At the same time, the son changed the address of his parent’s financial statements to a post office box. He then forged his parent’s names and opened fraudulent bank accounts, taking more than $3 million. He did this by calling their financial advisor and having funds wired. The father was forced to move into a nursing home for care and was placed on Medicaid since there was no money left.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
Have you noticed an elder that looks physically neglected, has a disheveled appearance, or withdrawing money in large amounts or more frequently? Elders at higher risk of abuse are those with a deteriorating mental state or those considered a protected person.
- Physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment: Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns
- Emotional abuse: Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression; strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult
- Financial abuse: Sudden changes in financial situations, withdrawing large amounts of money or withdrawing money more frequently
- Neglect: Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss
- Verbal or emotional abuse: Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals
If you suspect elder abuse, report it by calling the 24-hour statewide abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505. Pennsylvania law protects those who report suspected abuse from retaliation and civil or criminal liability; all calls are free and confidential.
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