Jalene Hahn: Know the Signs of Financial Abuse to Protect Seniors – Indianapolis Business Journal – Indianapolis Business Journal | Vette Leader

Personal Finance: Jalene HahnElder abuse and mistreatment is an often silent problem that robs seniors of their dignity, safety and sometimes their lives. Before the pandemic, about one in 10 older adults in the US experienced elder abuse. In 2020, that number doubled to 1 in 5. Among people with cognitive impairment, nearly 50% experience some form of abuse and 47% have been abused by their caregiver.

Financial exploitation of the elderly – what the industry calls EFE – is a form of elder abuse and mistreatment. EFE schemes generally involve either theft or fraud. Scams and scams are generally committed by unknown actors and can be committed by anyone. Perpetrators of elder theft are often people known and trusted by older adults. Examples of financial theft include forging checks, accepting someone else’s retirement or Social Security benefits, or using someone’s credit cards and bank accounts without their permission. This includes unauthorized changing of the name of a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or ownership of a home.

Exposing abuse and neglect can be difficult, and many incidents go unidentified and unreported because victims may choose not to come forward due to fear of reprisal, loss of independence, embarrassment, loss of the primary relationship, and family dynamics. While there is no consistent profile of an offender or victim, statistically the victims are more likely to be widowed women over the age of 75 who are geographically or socially isolated and have a functional or cognitive disability. The characteristics of abusers vary widely, but 60% of abusers are male relatives of the victim, financially dependent on the elderly, have a history of substance abuse, are unemployed, or have poor mental health. An important psychological component for an abuser is that he or she is in a position of trust to exert undue influence over the victim.

The American Bar Association defines “undue influence” as “an excessive belief that causes another person to act or refrain from acting, by overriding that person’s free will and leading to inequality.” The exercise of improper influence is not an event; it is a process that is carried out over time. Perpetrators work to isolate the victim and exploit cognitive deficits and/or important life transitions.

The personal consequences for the victims can be severe. Feelings of fear, shame, anger, self-doubt, regret, and worthlessness are common. Victims lose their sense of security and trust in others. In extreme cases, some victims become suicidal. Economically, victims may be left financially destitute and unable to pay for the care they need now or in the future. They are also at risk of losing their primary residence. Almost 1 in 10 victims of financial abuse rely on Medicaid.

Warning signs that may indicate a senior is a victim of financial exploitation include:

Unusual spending patterns or withdrawals from an older adult’s account.

Unpaid or overdue invoices.

Missing money or valuable items.

Sudden changes in powers of attorney, property titles or wills.

Receiving inferior care compared to the quality he or she can afford.

The presence of a new “best friend” who accepts lavish “gifts” from the older adult.

If you are an independent older adult, you can protect yourself by:

Take care of your health.

Reducing social isolation by staying active in the community and staying connected with friends and family.

Post and open your own mail.

Use direct deposit for all checks.

Have your own phone.

As we gather for Thanksgiving and the end of the year holidays, family members can take steps to reduce their risk of elder abuse by paying attention to the older adults in your life and reaching out to their caregivers, taking the time to listen and their challenges, and look for ways to provide support, e.g. B. by asking friends and family for help. Local support groups, adult day care programs, counseling centers, and other emotional wellbeing services can be helpful. Knowing that someone is paying attention and showing interest can help reduce the incidence of financial theft by older people.•


Hahn is a certified financial planner and owner of WWA Planning and Investments in Columbus. She can be reached at 812-379-1120 or jalene@wwafp.com.

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