Like other forms of elder abuse, financial abuse is a growing problem in Alameda County as our population ages. The numbers are as startling as they are disturbing. It is estimated that nationally, only one in 14 incidents of abuse against people who are 65 years of age or older is reported.
And the majority of perpetrators are close to the victim -- relatives, friends or caregivers who have been entrusted to care for aging grandparents, parents and disabled relatives.
Complicating matters further is the lack of dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units of professionals with expertise in these complex cases. Additionally, many caregivers, family members and financial services employees aren't trained in preventing, protecting or dealing with financial exploitation of the elderly. There is often a lack of coordination between agencies and professionals who have pieces of the puzzle.
Last year, the Adult Protective Services division of the Alameda County Social Services Agency-Adult and Aging Services Department received 4,994 calls of suspected abuse, of which 4,716 were opened for investigation.
SSA has over the last year increased its capacity to receive and respond to reports of all types of abuse. Unfortunately, these numbers only represent a small fraction of the cases of elder abuse.
The numbers have grown to epidemic proportions, yet this crisis has flown under the radar of public outrage. Seniors are often embarrassed or intimidated into silence while they lose their life savings, resulting in financial and emotional bankruptcy for many.
To mark this year's Elder Abuse Awareness month, SSA has launched a public awareness campaign to bring attention to the growing crisis of elder abuse by encouraging relatives, families, friends and seniors themselves to report elder abuse when they suspect it or fall prey to it.
This is a family secret that no one should keep. Seniors with any questions or concerns about the management of their finances are encouraged to trust but verify.
Here are some definite warning signs that are strong indicators of financial abuse:
- Inappropriate banking activity such as unusually large withdrawals or withdrawals from automated banking machines.
- Signatures on checks that do not resemble the elder's signature.
- Legal documents signed when the elder is physically incapable of writing.
- Checks written out to "cash" being negotiated by caretakers.
- Checks signed by the senior but filled out by someone else.
- A surge of activity in accounts which have been static for years.
- Expensive gifts made by the elder.
- Checks or credit card transactions made out to direct mail or telemarketing promotions.
- Contributions going to newly formed religious or nonprofit causes.
- Investments in time shares, real property, annuities or financial products.
- Large loans against home equity to finance investments.
We all have a moral obligation to take care of the generation that precedes us. If we are lucky, we will be next in line and may need someone to look out for us.
Lori A. Cox is director of the Oakland-based Alameda County Social Services Agency.
Full Article & Source:
Moral obligation to report elder abuse suspicions (East Bay Times My Word)