Elderly independent living abuse is a legal term that refers to the illegal or unauthorized use of a senior citizen’s assets, property, or money. When someone exploits the elderly to use their wealth without the permission or knowledge of their caretakers or the full understanding of the elderly person, it is a crime of a type of fraud.
Experts believe that as the population of the United States trends older, economic exploitation of the elderly is an increasingly severe problem and is seriously underestimated. A study performed in 2015 found that 37% of elderly people had been abused within the last five years. It also found that 1.8% of the elderly who suffered fraud developed depression, anxiety, and lost their independent housing due to the crimes committed against them. Nearly 1 million lost their housing, almost 7% stopped seeking medical help, and just over 4% reduced their nutritional intake by skipping meals due to the financial hardship. And these numbers don’t tell the full story, as many elders who are taken financial advantage of don’t seek help or report it due to the perpetrators being family members, close friends, or caregivers.
There are several steps you can take to help ensure that your senior loved ones are not victims of financial crimes. One thing you can do is set up oversight of their accounts. Ensure that you or someone close to your living elder can access their accounts to check for any abnormalities. If they’re suddenly issuing a large check, or withdrawing significant funds from an ATM, those are red flags indicating potential victimhood. You can also have their monthly account statements sent to you so you can keep track of their funds and accounts month to month.
If your elder loved one is still able to make financial decisions, you can encourage them to appoint you or someone you trust as their power of attorney. With the help of a lawyer, you can customize the role to meet your loved one’s needs, from giving total control of finances over, to simply appointing someone to file taxes and manage property. Spell out your needs and wants to make sure whatever plan is implemented is exactly what you’re comfortable with and need.
There are also several tech tools available that track accounts automatically and can detect suspicious activity like missing deposits, unusual withdrawals, and abrupt changes in spending patterns, and then will notify you and a trusted advocate. These services go above and beyond just detecting scams, fraud, and identity theft as well. Many of them offer support in the event it happens and provide a means to recoup any losses, as well as walking you through the steps of reporting it and mitigating the damage. Some will even reimburse lawyer fees in the event going to court is necessary.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is simply maintain good contact with your loved one. A sadly common consequence of aging is losing connections with your loved ones and family members. By staying involved in your elder loved one’s life you can stay abreast of any changes they might be going through, including potential bad actors who may be seeking to take advantage of them.