Most Prevalent Form of Elder Abuse: Money Stolen By Family Members

What is the most common way that local seniors are exploited? Many might suspect abuse in nursing homes or theft from financial scammers and telemarketing fraud. But many elder abuse experts now claim that the single largest problem may very well be financial exploitation by one’s own family members.

Our New York elder law attorneys understand that this is a difficult topic to broach. After all, most seniors would never dream that their own relatives would take advantage of their situation for their own gain. Yet, a comprehensive approach to addressing the real-life challenges faced by elderly community requires honest assessments of the problem. According to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice the “most frequent” form of abuse is “spending by relatives without the senior’s permission.”

Senior Financial Exploitation
The need for the elderly community member to be vigilant about protecting their assets is well-known. Because of various vulnerabilities, this community has long-been a target of the unscrupulous who are willing to take advantage for their own gain. Sadly, however, while fraudulent schemes by strangers remain a problem, it is unauthorized conduct by family members that deserves the most attention.

Often those family members have problems themselves which lead to dependency on the senior. This may include mental health issues or substance abuse problems. The risk is increased the more frailties a senior has. According to recent research out of Harvard University, about half of all seniors over 80 years old have some form of dementia. These cognitive challenge affect decision-making and critical thinking, making it far more likely that they can be taken advantage of or give financial control to another unknowingly.

The abuse can take many forms, and sizeable thefts can happen quickly. One law enforcement official discussing the problem in a Fiscal Times report noted that “I’ve seen as much as three-quarters of a million dollars that disappeared over 18 months. The money, or control of a house–it’s just all stripped away”

Many new programs target senior financial exploitation, including stepped up efforts by local law enforcement agencies, large grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, and the creation of the federal Elder Justice Coordinating Council. Yet, our New York City elder law attorneys know that many of those efforts are not directed at mistreatment by family members. It remains incredibly difficult to tackle the problem when the abusers are the ones most trusted by the senior. In many ways, the only way have protection against familial abuse is via oversight by trusted third-parties, like financial advisors, attorneys, and accountants.

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