Elder financial abuse is fast becoming a national crisis. That is the message that a New York geriatrician and social scientist is spreading after conducting extensive scientific investigations into the extent of fraud and financial exploitation among local seniors. The doctor is encouraging friends, family members, caregivers, New York elder law attorneys, and others to keep a close eye out for the signs that this abuse might be occurring among seniors that they know.
As reported in the Centre Daily Times, the doctor’s latest work suggests that literally millions of seniors are victimized financially each and every year. Yet only a fraction of the instances of abuse ever come to the attention of authorities–only one in forty four, according to the report. In even fewer cases are the wrongdoers held accountable for their conduct. Previous work by this same team of researchers also found that those seniors who had been abused financially saw similar damaging effects on their physical well-being. The groundbreaking work revealed that mortality rates of elderly victims of financial abuse were significantly higher than for those who had not been abused. Suffice to say, this mistreatment has profound effects on the lives of victims and all efforts to limit the problem must be taken.
Yet, there is a long way to go before the mistreatment is stamped out. According to the latest research at least 2.5 million seniors are victims of financial abuse each and every year. Even then, that number may be a significant understatement. For one thing, it was reached mostly via self-reporting. Many seniors might hide their situation out of fear or embarrassment. Additionally, the research team noted that seniors who were suffering from a severe rate of mental decline were not polled in the survey. Yet it is that very group which is at the highest risk of being victimized by unscrupulous individuals willing to take advantage of them for personal financial gain.
Visiting a New York elder law attorney before a loved one with cognitive mental diseases, like Alzheimer’s, loses the ability to communicate is essential. The professional will be able to provide an extra set of eyes on the senior’s books which may help catch irregularities or signs of financial abuse. Beyond that, having an elder law estate plan put in place will help keep the senior’s wishes fulfilled, even if they lose their mental capacities. Substitute decision-making documents will also be crafted to provide for the best interests of the elder as the disease progresses. These include creation of a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. All of this will help avoid costly, timely, and stressful guardianship proceedings through the court system.
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