“How to Protect Your Aging Parent from Elder Abuse”
Posted Jun 13 2011 8:38pm
Elder abuse can happen to any older adult in any situation. It is both under-recognized and under-reported.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 cases go unreported. Financial abuse alone costs our seniors $2.6 billion each year! (Statistics are from a MetLife study, see link at bottom of this article.)
Elder abuse is something I don’t like to think about. It’s a tough subject to write about. But, each of us needs to raise our level of awareness so we can protect our aging parents. Elder abuse can take many forms. When I first heard the term, I thought about physical abuse and neglect of the elderly by hired employees in a nursing home. But, it encompasses so much more.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) lists these other forms: emotional or psychological abuse; verbal abuse and threats; financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, and abandonment. It can happen anywhere: nursing home, private home and other institutions. Surprisingly, it affects the elderly across all socio-economic classes. Dementia is an especially strong risk factor.
This particular article focuses on Elder financial abuse. The elderly can be financially abused by mail fraud, phone fraud, business fraud and stealing by a family member or hired caregiver, or visitor.
Yesterday I was visiting an elderly friend in her senior living community. She handed me something she had just received in the mail. She said, “Dale, I know this is a scam, but there are so many others here who won’t.” We looked at the mailer together. Everything about it looked official, she had won a 7 night cruise for two people! Finally we found one small line on the back that mentioned she would have to listen to a vacation property offer. She would also have to call an 800 number and mail in $29.99! We finally found a return address of Taiwan. This is just one minor example of what happens to the elderly all too often!
What if your aging parent is not as alert or what if they have dementia? I have heard stories of elderly who lost their life savings within a few weeks. Here are some key ways we can prevent financial abuse from happening to our elderly loved ones.
Stay in frequent contact with elderly relatives, and keep lines of communication open.
Be observant and perceptive about any physical or behavioral change.
Choose a caregiver carefully. Never select one through an ad. Use a licensed, bonded agency. Hire an investigator to ensure the potential caregiver is not a convicted felon.
Keep a photographed inventory of all jewelry in a locked box.
Use a criss-cross shredder on any paperwork containing identifying information.
Protect incoming and outgoing mail. Getting a Post Office box is a good preventive measure.
Obtain a credit search for your parent 2-3 times a year.
Have Caller Id on the phone. Teach your parents to not answer “unknown” or “out of area”. Tell them that scam artists use the phone as a weapon, and it is OK to hang up on someone.
Tell them “You will NEVER win a foreign lottery”.
Have a duplicate copy of their banking account statements sent to a trusted family member (better yet, obtain access and monitor their accounts via online banking.
Tell them to not assume a handyman is to be trusted, even if he has a wonderful name and is charming. Check the Better Business Bureau and state licensing. Always get 3 estimates. Obtain a written contract. And, never pay more than 10% or $1,000 up-front, whichever is less.
Have a second line of defense at their front door (a peephole or locked screen door).
Report any suspected mistreatment immediately. Contact the Helpline for your state. To reach the listing, click here.
Here is a helpful Fact Sheet on Elder Abuse from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCAE.) Click here.
To read the Metlife Study, “Broken Trust: Elders, Families, and Finance”: click here.
Article by: Dale Carter, MBA, PMP
June 15th is the 6th annual ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’. Consider checking with your Area Agency for Aging for events in your area that are raising awareness on this special day. One very interesting event in the Ontario area is called “A Cup of Tea”, fundraising campaign in support of their Senior Safety Line. What a great concept in involving the community and raising awareness and funds!