Elder Abuse Prevention
Monday, June 15 was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Each year, across the globe communities, municipalities, organizations, and agencies plan activities and programs to share information and raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation among older adults. It is important to take the proper steps, including estate planning, planning for long-term care, and guardianship, to be sure that your loved one receives the safety, care, and protection that they deserve.
According to an article in Forbes, financial abuse of older adults is the biggest form of elder abuse. A 2010 survey suggested that 20% of Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized by financial fraud. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) reports that financial abuse of an older adult can include taking money or property, forging his or her signature, and using deception, coercion or undue influence to get an older person to sign a legal document.
AARP: “the most infamous case of elder abuse in recent memory”
One of the most well-known cases of financial abuse involved socialite Brooke Astor. According to The New York Times, Ms. Astor’s son, who had guardianship of his mother, and family lawyer took advantage of her age and declining mental state – she had Alzheimer’s disease – to manipulate her into altering her will to give tens of millions of dollars to her son.
Ms. Astor’s grandson raised suspicions about his father’s actions in a lawsuit that accused him of neglect and wrongfully taking Ms. Astor’s money. The lawsuit attempted to replace his father as Ms. Astor’s guardian but was unsuccessful. As a result of the suit, the Manhattan district attorney looked more closely into Ms. Astor’s son’s actions.
Protecting Yourself and Loved One’s from Financial Abuse
It important to recognize the signs of elder abuse, as Ms. Astor’s grandson did, in order to take steps to protect your loved ones from exploitation. The NCPEA suggests looking for patterns of incidents, such as:
- Unpaid bills;
- Unusual bank account activity or withdrawals or transfers from bank accounts for which the older person cannot explain or account;
- Legal documents that the older person did not understand at the time they were signed; and/or
- Suspicious signatures on documents, including checks.
Family members can help guard against financial abuse, or take swift action if abuse is suspected, by taking a number of steps suggested by materials created by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement and the Center for American Nurses. Family members can keep up-to-date copies of financial information – including bank account numbers, pension or retirement fund information, insurance policies, and tax returns. Stay aware of the older adult’s financial situation, be cautious of offers or changes to finances or investments, and always ask questions about new financial or legal arrangements.
One of the first suggestions from the American Bankers Association to protect against financial abuse is to plan ahead to protect your assets. It is important to plan for your future and for the safety, care, and security of your loved one. If you have questions about what plans are right for you or your family, contact the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group for a free consultation today.