Financial exploitation of elderly citizens is a problem that is rapidly becoming more widespread in America as the elderly population continues to grow. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, about one in nine individuals over the age of sixty reports being financially exploited in the last twelve months. Financial exploitation is a type of abuse, and can cause severe harm and even death in some cases.
Financial Exploitation Offenders
There are many types of financial exploitation and approximately 90 percent are instigated by individuals that are trusted by the victim. In many cases, the caregiver has control of the victim’s finances, and uses credit cards, cash, and bank accounts for personal gain. Elderly citizens are often seen as easy targets. Cognitive and physical limitations may inhibit victims from understanding that there has been a theft and from seeking justice for the wrongdoing.
People in a position to financially exploit elderly patients include:
- Family members
- Financial institutions
- Religious leaders
Types of financial Exploitation
The type of financial exploitation that is enacted typically depends on the person committing the crime. Family members or caregivers may have direct access to finances, so direct theft may occur. Friends and neighbors may convince the patient to lend money with no intention of paying the money back. Doctors and nurses may convince the patient to pay for unnecessary medication, or may overcharge for given services. Property & Asset’s may also be at risk for those who live in nursing homes.
Scams Targeting Elderly Individuals
Strangers, financial institutions, and religious leaders are more likely to be involved in scams targeting elderly patients. Strangers may convince the patient that they are donating to a false cause or are paying for a service or good that does not exist. Financial institutions may persuade the patient to take a loan that is not affordable or necessary. Religious leaders may use a patient’s faith to persuade the patient to donate unreasonable amounts of money to the religious organization or purchase unnecessary items.
Patient Effects of Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation can be financially destructive for the victim. The victim may have invested years towards building up savings, and may have trouble affording basic care after finances have been stolen. Patients may be left without a place to live and may never be able to recover lost finances. In extreme circumstances, patients may be left without adequate means to survive, and may starve or die of illness.
Emotional Impact on Victims
Patients that have been the victim of financial exploitation may be emotionally traumatized. Especially in circumstances where the offender was a family member or highly trusted acquaintance, the victim may have a difficult time trusting anyone. This lack of trust can result in extreme paranoia in some cases. Patients may also feel guilty, angry, ashamed, or worthless for believing a deception, and may develop depression or other emotional disorders.
Societal Effects of Financial Exploitation
In many cases of financial exploitation, a patient that was once able to pay for care is forced to turn to government assistance programs. This can cause a financial crisis if the problem becomes widespread. Government assistance programs may become overburdened and unable to provide proper care for all in need.
Preventing Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation may be preventable by the patient, in some cases. Appointing a number of individuals to oversee finances can take the opportunity and temptation away from primary caregivers that would ordinarily be individually responsible for all finances. There are also organizations such as the National Adult Protective Services Association that work to raise awareness and prevent financial exploitation of elders.
Handling Financial Exploitation
There are some programs available that may be able to provide financial or legal assistance for elderly patients that have been the victims of financial exploitation. An attorney may also be able to provide advice and legal counsel for victims of financial exploitation. An attorney may also be able to assist patients in recovering costs stemming from financial exploitation.
“Elder Financial Exploitation.” National Adult Protective Services Association. National Adult Protective Services Association, n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <http://www.napsa-now.org/policy-advocacy/world-elder-abuse-awareness-day/>.
“Financial Exploitation of the Elderly.” National Institute of Justice. Department of Justice, 05 Jan 2011. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <http://nij.gov/topics/crime/elder-abuse/Pages/financial-exploitation.asp&xgt;.
Price, Thomas, Patricia King, et al. “Elder Financial Exploitation: Implications for Future Policy and Research in Elder Mistreatment.” Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. 12(3).July (2011): 354-356. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3117613/>.