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Understanding, Identifying, and Combating Elder Financial Abuse



"Elder financial abuse shatters the golden years of our cherished seniors, weakening the foundation of trust and security they've built over a lifetime."

 

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It was at our 2023 Redefining Ageing event that I first gained insight into the troubling phenomenon of elder financial abuse. Beverly Baker, representing OWN NSW, poignantly described the issue as stemming from "inherency impatient" children who, in their haste to secure their financial futures, cause unimaginable harm to their ageing parents.

 

Beverly's words served as a potent reminder that elder financial abuse is not just a concept but a devastating reality that demands our attention and action. By acknowledging this issue and working together to educate and protect our ageing community, we can help ensure their golden years are spent in peace and security, free from exploiting those who should be caring for them most.

 

Elder financial abuse is a growing concern, often targeting vulnerable seniors who may rely on others for assistance with their finances. This form of abuse can have devastating consequences, including loss of life savings, diminished financial security, and increased dependence on family members or government assistance. In this blog, we'll discuss how to spot the signs of elder financial abuse and the tools available to combat it.

 

Understanding Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elderly individual's funds, property, or assets. It can take many forms, such as:

  • Misusing powers of attorney or guardianship

  • Stealing money or property

  • Forging signatures on financial documents

  • Coercing an elderly person to sign over property or make financial decisions against their will

  • Using deception or fraud to obtain funds or property

 

Identifying Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

The signs of elder financial abuse can be subtle, but there are some common indicators to watch for:

  • Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or unusual account activity

  • Sudden changes to wills, powers of attorney, or other legal documents

  • Unpaid bills or notices of eviction despite available funds

  • Missing property or belongings

  • Suspicious signatures on financial documents

  • A reluctance to discuss financial matters or a sudden change in financial decision-making

 

Combating Elder Financial Abuse

Empowering seniors and their loved ones with knowledge and resources is crucial for combating elder financial abuse. Here are some tools and strategies to protect seniors:

 

  1. Open Communication: Encourage seniors to discuss financial matters with trusted family members, friends, or professionals. Regular conversations can help identify potential abuse early on.  

  2. Financial Education: Financial literacy resources and education can empower seniors to make informed decisions and protect their assets.  

  3. Legal Protection: Consult with an attorney to establish powers of attorney, guardianship agreements, and estate plans safeguarding seniors' interests.  

  4. Monitoring Accounts: Reviewing bank and credit card statements can help identify suspicious activity or unauthorised transactions.  

  5. Credit Reports: Requesting regular credit reports can expose any fraudulent accounts or credit inquiries.  

  6. Reporting Concerns: If elder financial abuse is suspected, report it to Adult Protective Services, law enforcement, or other appropriate authorities.

 

Elder financial abuse can have severe consequences, but early detection and proactive measures can significantly reduce the risk. By staying vigilant and fostering open communication, we can help protect seniors' financial security and well-being in our community. 

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