I recently read an article on this topic and attended a continuing education class on it as well. The devastating monetary and emotional toll financial abuse is taking on our elders is beginning to become more of a concern across the country. It's disheartening to read some of the statistics, but it's important to recognize when this abuse is taking place and know what to do about it. Here is some of the information I was able to gather that I hope you find useful:
- The study estimates the average cost per victim is $36,000, which is 20% higher than the study found in 2014.
- Nearly 50 of respondents say the effect on the elder victim was a "major loss" or "financial ruin."
- 37% of active caregivers said the elder under their care had experienced financial abuse or exploitation with a loss. This is a considerable increase from the findings of the study's first iteration in 2014.
- 40% of active and potential caregivers said their elder has been subjected to financial abuse multiple times.
- 45% of active caregivers surveyed said the elder they cared for exhibited signs of dementia or a decline in mental capabilities.
Beyond the considerable financial loss, the study found that elder abuse is taking a great emotional toll on the victims. According to respondents, 36% of the victims experienced anger, 34% depression, 28% anxiety and 25% guilt. Worse, almost 60% of caregivers reported that the financial abuse had caused the elder with mental decline to isolate him or herself, primarily due to embarrassment or lack of awareness.
Allianz Life suggests several ways you can protect the ones you love:
- Plan ahead to protect assets and ensure that the elder's wishes are followed.
- The elder should consult with a qualified financial professional or attorney before signing complex agreements or anything they don't understand.
- Build relationships with professionals involved with their finances as they can assist in monitoring for suspicious activity.
- Limit use of cash. Instead, use checks and credit cards that create a paper trail.
- Feel free to say "no," keeping in mind that it's the elder's money.
Note that much of this information is from a new study of active and potential caregivers by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. The study was conducted in August 2016 with 1,000 respondents age 18 to 64 who were either actively providing care for a non-spousal elder age 65 or older, or could be in a position to do so within the next 5 years.