Many people know that seniors are susceptible to consumer fraud, telemarketing ploys, and internet scams, but fewer know that by far the biggest threat to an elderly person’s financial security is financial abuse by relatives, friends, and caregivers. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse has found that there are over 20,000 substantiated cases of caregiver financial elder abuse in the country each year, accounting for about 20% of all types of elder abuse in the United States.
How does financial elder abuse happen? Very simply, relatives and other caregivers take advantage of a senior’s trust, loneliness, emotional vulnerability, and/or deteriorating mental clarity in order to funnel off their savings, retirement funds, property, or other assets. In some cases, caregivers may slowly force themselves into positions of power or insinuate themselves into wills.
It can be difficult to protect your elder loved ones from financial abuse and to make certain that all they have worked for is protected and used appropriately. One of the best things you can do to protect the seniors in your life from these issues is to be familiar with common elder abuse red flags:
- A caregiver is taking a strange amount of interest in the senior and his or her financial affairs.
- You observe a sudden uptick in back transactions or credit card transactions that the senior cannot explain.
- A caregiver is isolating the senior from other relatives and friends.
- Your senior’s bills, such as utility bills or nursing home bills, are suddenly not being paid.
- A caregiver without obvious means suddenly has a change in lifestyle or suddenly makes several large purchases.
- Your senior has a sudden and unexplained change in lifestyle, or suddenly begins receiving gifts from a certain relative or caregiver.
- A caregiver begins accompanying the senior to the bank, signing checks, or writing checks on behalf of the senior.
- The senior is confused about his or her finances or where certain amounts of money went.
- The senior has a sudden change in personality or mood, either in general or when around a certain caregiver.
- The senior is suddenly reluctant to discuss financial matters or matters of his or her estate.
- You suddenly lose access to your senior loved one’s bank account or credit card information.
- The senior or caregiver unexpectedly wishes to make changes to the senior’s will, power of attorney, or other estate planning documents.
One of the best ways to protect against elder financial abuse is to talk with your senior loved ones about their financial plans, estate planning, and long-term care wishes. Having a plan in place and having their money protected can make it more difficult for caregivers to steal, while also making it easier for you to detect financial abuse if it begins to happen. In addition, consider talking to your elderly loved ones about the prevalence and dangers of elder abuse so that they too can recognize warning signs.
New York Estate Planning Assistance & Legal Advice
The Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin are here to help you with a wide range of elder law issues, including estate planning and protection against elder financial abuse. To learn more about our services, or to speak with an attorney, please call (516) 605-0625 or fill out our online contact form.