In general terms, elderly abuse is defined as the act of intentionally treating elderly people in a manner that harms them or puts them at a vulnerable situation. As a result, governments have been passing laws that attempt to prevent elderly abuse. When elderly abuse is mentioned, most people think that sexual or physical harassment on the elderly is the only form of mistreatment that qualifies to be abuse. However, elderly people who spent time in their homes are constantly faced by financial abuse.
This form of elderly abuse has been described as the second serious abuse they face after neglect. Some researches contacted by different researchers have indicated that seven people out of every 1000 elderly people are victims of financial abuse. It takes the form of embezzlement, extorting money from them and stealing their possessions and property (Payne, 2005).
Elderly Financial Abuse
Elderly financial abuse sometimes becomes a difficult concept to define due to the notion that elderly people should use their wealth and property for their own benefits. In other words, most legislatures assume that using the assets of an elderly person to benefit another person amounts to financial abuse.
However, there are many reasons that may lead elderly people into making the decision to use their money and assets in assisting other people. The most common reason why elderly people may decide to use their resources to assist other people is perceived or real obligation.
In addition, they may decide to use the resources as donation to people of their choice. Referring to obligation, an elderly person may take it as his responsibility to use his assets in assisting his children. In cases of donations, it is obvious that the donations have to be in the form of assets. As a result, some of the deeds by elderly people that may be considered as financial abuse may not be actually abuse (Payne, 2005).
Most of the cases associated with elderly financial abuse are perpetrated by close family members. These family members steal money, defraud or forcefully obtain other property from the elderly people.
For instance, majority of women who are above the age of 80 years are abused financially by their children who are between the ages of 40 and 60 years (Payne, 2005). One of the factors that contribute towards this kind of financial abuse by family members is that most residential homes are under strict control. As a result, there is no possibility of other people intervening in the lives of the elderly people.
The children who abuse the elderly financially claim that their parents’ wealth belongs to them hence they have the right to access and use it. For example, cases have been recorded where children take their elderly parents to banks and force them to sign mandates in order for them to withdraw money. Some manage to get their money back while others lose it completely.
Elderly financial abuse tends to get little attention from the police who take it as a domestic issue that they should not be involved in. This is the same notion that makes them keep away from addressing domestic violence since they argue that it falls under family matters and they are not supposed to interfere with family matters. The knowledge of domestic violence and situations where some people control others should be applied in dealing with elderly financial abuse.
Another worrying issue regarding elderly financial abuse is that it is sometimes perpetrated by care givers who are responsible for looking after the elderly.
When it comes to care givers, there are people referred to as grooming thieves and opportunistic thieves. Grooming thieves are associated with children but home care givers establish friendly relationships with the elderly with the intentions of eventually exploiting them.
They talk of their families and probably explain the difficulties their children are facing. For example, they might mention that their children have no school fees and they are likely to be expelled from school. Finally, the elderly people decide to share in their plight by giving them some money to put their children through school.
This is a common form of elderly financial abuse that is not given the attention it deserves. In some cases, unsuspecting elderly people are befriended by young people whose intention is to exploit them financially. They employ all the possible strategies until they gain access to the financial resources and private property of the elderly and end up exploiting them.
Collection of pensions is the other way through which the elderly people are financially abused but one that is taken for granted by many people. In recent times, most governments have been paying pensions directly to the accounts of the elderly. After the money is deposited into their accounts, they are issued with cards that use pins for the money to be withdrawn. When the elderly cannot go to the banks to withdraw the money themselves, they are left with no option other than sending family members to withdraw the money on their behalf.
Many family members and even house workers end up being in possession of personal identification numbers of elderly people. As result, they are able to withdraw all the money in the accounts. This was different when banks were using pension books because one could only withdraw the amount signed for. These family members even withdraw the money on different occasions since they have the PIN (Payne, 2005).
Direct payment system is also another unsuspected way through which elderly people are financially abused. This system is intended at giving service users the ability to choose the services they want. However, the method has emerged to be one of the common methods through which elderly people are defrauded of their money.
Although the system is considered appropriate, elderly people who do not have trustworthy people fall victims of financial abuse. The money goes into their bank accounts but banks never ascertain if the money really helps them. Instead of the money assisting the elderly, it goes into the wrong hands of individuals who decide to use it for their own benefits. This forces the elderly to live in poor conditions when they are supposed to live good lives.
Apart from family members, the elderly are also financially abused by their neighbors. For instance, some neighbors find ways of getting the keys to houses of elderly people. When they move out of the houses, the neighbors get into the houses and make away with property belonging to the elderly. The victims usually do nothing for fear of serious consequences. This causes them to lose a lot of savings and property which is used by the neighbors (Payne, 2005).
Signs of Elderly Financial Abuse
As mentioned above, the elderly people are a group of people that is exposed to financial scams that end up depriving them of their savings. Most of these scams are in the form of investments, home repairs and charities. The elderly who fall victims of financial abuse are the ones whose minds are slowing down or widowed individuals whose money and property was under the control of their wives. In addition, elderly people who live alone and do not have many close friends become vulnerable to elderly financial abuse.
There are bodies that deal with cases of financial abuse such as the National Institute on Financial Issues and Financial Services for Elders. Such bodies advise that there are specific signs of elderly financial abuse that should be looked out for. The first sign of elderly financial abuse is living conditions that are below the financial resources of the elderly person. An elderly person who lives a life that is below his resources is likely to be a victim of elderly financial abuse.
The second sign of elderly financial abuse is the piling up of unpaid bills when an elderly person is supposed to have paid them. This clearly indicates that his money is being used in an inappropriate manner. The third sign of elderly financial abuse is when the elderly person transfers his money or some other assets to other people under unclear circumstances.
This is a possible indicator that the person might be involved with individuals who exploit him financially. The fourth sign of elderly financial abuse is when caregivers or relatives make attempts to isolate the individuals or move them to other locations. When family members are involved, most victims of elderly financial abuse try to cover the issues and nobody reports them. However, steps should be taken to ensure that elderly financial abuse does not take place (Payne, 2005).
Elderly financial abuse is a serious problem that should be dealt with in order to guarantee the elderly good lives. In dealing with the problem, banks have started developing packages for offering training in order to detect how elderly people are defrauded of their money. Workers in the banks are offered special training on how to detect theft cases that take place in the banks.
In addition, different institutions have instituted research to ensure early detection of cases of financial abuse and how to handle them. These steps will eliminate elderly financial abuse.
Payne, B. (2005). Crime and elder abuse: an integrated perspective. New York: Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2005.