A fellow once told me that when he hears the term “elder abuse,” he thinks of scams that only happen to lonely, memory losing, old ladies who get taken by charming strangers. But, that is completely wrong.
In fact, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million people who are abused each year. The problem is, that about only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
Typically, abusers are both women and men. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses of the victim.
One example of elder abuse happened to an unsuspecting Florida man named Raymond H. A younger family member of Raymond’s had borrowed money from Raymond in his younger days and was working towards paying him back.
This younger family member told Raymond that he was expecting a large settlement from the state of Florida, after which Raymond would be paid in full for the previous loan.
The family member even produced documents, including e-mails, that appeared to be from the state showing the amount of money and other details of the alleged settlement.
The problem was, in order for the family member to receive the settlement from the state, they needed to pay back taxes to the federal government. Basically, the family member told Raymond they needed him to loan them more money to pay taxes, then he would receive the settlement check.
Two years later and thousands of additional dollars taken from Raymond, another family member stepped in and stopped the fleecing of money. Raymond didn’t suffer from dementia or anything like that, he simply believed and trusted the family member.
The problem is, these types of crimes are often hard for law enforcement to do anything about because there oftentimes isn’t a crime committed. What I mean is, in the case of Raymond, he willingly gave his family member the money and the family member never threatened or intimidated Raymond.
Since Raymond still makes his own financial decisions, there was no crime in him giving away his money. Simply put, the money is gone and the con artist is getting away with the crime.
Since elder abuse comes in many different forms (as just shown), here are a few precautions you can take to help your loved ones or yourself from falling victim.
Plan ahead. You should plan ahead with loved ones by creating a power of attorney or a living will, so you can address health care decisions in advance to avoid confusion and family problems later on. Of course, you should seek legal advice from an attorney you trust before signing any documents.
Other things you may want to consider are closing credit cards, using direct deposit for all checks and regularly monitoring all bank or credit card statements. Ideally, the less mail a person receives, the less likely they are to fall victim to fraud, so you may want to have their mail sent to a trusted family member.
Of course, this all depends on the person’s mental capacity.
Check on them often. One of biggest problems for aging loved ones is that many of them become isolated if their spouse or similar aged family members have passed away. My point is, you need to pick up the phone a lot and check on them.
See them as often as you can and call every night, especially if it’s a long-distance relationship. The key is to be involved, pay attention and ask a lot of questions.
For example, are you physically okay? How did you get that bruise? Are you paying the bills on time? Lastly, if you are unable to physically visit them make use of technology such as FaceTime or Skype.
Be cautious of new friends. As people age, they oftentimes become lonely, which can lead to them to seeking out new friends and acquaintances. I’m sure we have all run into our lonely neighbor who wants to talk and talk.
Obviously, if your 85-year-old father is suddenly spending time with a 20-year-old, you should start asking some questions and making sure the person is not a con artist.
If you believe that one of your loved ones is the victim of elder abuse, you should immediately contact local police. If the police are unable to help and you still believe abuse is occurring, contact your county services.
Most county governments have program such as aging protective services and they should be able to check on your loved ones to make sure they are safe.