Archive for February, 2015

12 Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

February 14, 2015

Financial abuse of elders is a growing national problem.  It happens even in the best of families…more often than you may think.  Why is financial abuse of elders increasing?  Because the number of seniors is increasing.  Per the 2010 census, 13% of the U.S. population was age 65 or better.  This will increase to 20% by 2050.

Here is an example: A parent develops dementia.  An adult child starts with the best of intentions:  “I only want to keep Dad from being cheated out of his lifetime savings.”  The adult child perhaps has problems of his own…debt, substance abuse, loss of a job.  “I will just borrow $100 until next week.  Then I will pay it back.  Next week comes and more needs to be “borrowed”.  The son justifies what he is doing by: a) “I fully intend to pay it back and…”   A sense of self-righteousness fueled by anger at having become a caregiver: “I’m the one providing care for Dad.  Why shouldn’t I be helped in my emergency situation.”

It does not take much imagination to guess where this is headed.  And it happens all the time.  Not only by adult son’s.  Daughters, friends (close and otherwise), nieces & nephews, cousins, etc., often start down the slippery slope of taking small amounts.  Then the amounts become larger.  What are some of the warning signs that financial exploitation of an elder may be taking place?

  1. A family member (or friend) cuts off access to information about the parent that had previously been routinely available.

  2. A family member begins to isolate the parent.  Contact with others is limited.  The parent becomes more and more dependent upon the one family member.

  3. Substandard care of the parent is provided…even though available funds are adequate to pay for good care.

  4. Closely related to #3 above, bills remain unpaid despite the availability of funds.  A stack of unopened mail accumulates.  Notices containing threats to cut off utilities in the parent’s home begin to appear.

  5. The caregiver insists upon being present whenever anyone else is with the parent.  The parent seems frightened, unwilling to answer questions about how she is doing, always glancing at the caregiver as if to obtain approval before speaking.

  6. The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives (or “close” friends) eager to assume responsibility for the parent’s affairs.

  7. The unexplained disappearance of possessions…things that have been with the parent for years can no longer be found.

  8. A sudden change in beneficiaries of the parent’s life insurance policies.  Sudden changes in a will or other estate planning documents.

  9. A sudden changes in the parent’s banking or credit card practices.  The parent had never used her credit cards and now has a $10,000 balance due.

  10. The unexplained and sudden transfer of a parent’s assets.

  11. A friend or family member lives with the parent and is financially supported by the parent.

  12. The sudden romantic involvement of the (presumably single) parent with another person.

The appearance of any of the above warning signs may not necessarily indicate elder abuse.  There could be an innocent explanation for most of them.  Or not.


Disclaimer: This eNewsletter and all links to other sources should not be construed as tax or legal advice because they are neither. Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, does not give legal or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax advisor for these matters.


© Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, 2015