June 15 is World Elder Abuse Day Awareness Day, an annual observance by the United Nations to bring awareness to the problems faced by this vulnerable population. Elder abuse takes many forms, including financial. Often we don’t think of financial situations as a type of abuse, but when the elderly are taken advantage of the consequences can lead to loss of resources and even loss of independence, as well as irritability, depression and strained relationships with friends and family.
Who is at Risk?
The aging Baby Boomer population is an easy target because they have the money — people 50 and over control 70% of our nation’s wealth. The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) has found that 1 in 20 people 65 and older have been affected by some form of financial mistreatment. Elderly people who are more at risk include those suffering from isolation, Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
Financial abuse can take various forms:
· Fake charities
· Telemarketing scams
· Identity Theft
· Phishing through emails
The common thread is that in most of these situations, a plea is made for money for what seems like a worthy cause or legitimate reason. Sometimes it’s a stranger who makes these pleas and is able to extract funds from an unsuspecting person, but many times financial abuse occurs when family members or close friends take advantage of loved ones with diminished capabilities.
If you think your loved ones might be the victim of financial abuse, there are a few things to look out for as warnings:
· People who typically don’t visit the ATM making sudden ATM withdrawals
· Unexpected changes in banking account balances
· Unauthorized or unexplained withdrawals
· Missing valuable possessions
· Sudden changes to a will
· New “friends” accompanying your loved one to the bank
· Confusion, fear or lack of awareness about financial standings
How to Help Your Loved Ones
The best way to help avoid financial abuse is to have good lines of communication with your loved ones about their financial situation. Make sure that a trustworthy person is helping with estate and financial planning. You might suggest helping manage household finances for your loved one if you feel they are no longer capable of keeping track of everything themselves.
Communication and awareness is also fostered with the help of a caregiver from Piedmont Home Health. Having one of our trusted professionals assisting your loved one can help ease feelings of isolation and provide another person to talk with about any emails, phone calls or visits that might seem suspicious. It is important for you, the family caregiver, to communicate regularly with the Piedmont Home Health caregiver to be aware of any new people coming to visit or unusual happenings during the day.
Here are a few other ways to help safeguard your loved ones from financial abuse:
· Shred any receipts, bank statements and credit card offers with personal information
· Never give out your social security number over the phone or through email
· Check your credit report annually
· Never pay fees or taxes in order to collect “winnings”
· Pay with check or credit card, not cash, in order to have a paper trial of financial exchanges
· Don’t sign any financial documents unless you fully understand them
Questions? For more information and to learn more about the services we provide, please call 336-724-1197.