June 15th marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day in which nations around the world recognize this growing concern.
As our global senior populations continue to rise, it is estimated that people aged 60 years and older will more than double from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050 (1). As many as 1 in 10 Americans are abused or neglected each year, and only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities (2).
As this important day is upon us, it is important to understand the defining qualities of elder abuse. While there is not specific definition, as different types of abuse are always emerging, the World Health Organization details elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” The act can be verbal, physical, psychological or emotional, sexual or financial. It can also entail neglect–either intentional or unintentional.
At BankWest, the threat of a financial elder abuse case is ever present. Although hard to detect, it can be brought upon by a combination of individual, relational, and social factors.
The perpetrator of financial elder abuse could be:
- a family member,
- a care giver,
- a friend,
- a social acquaintance, or
- an entity poising as a charitable organization
In most cases these perpetrators will play on the goodness of the victims, asking for help for an immediate need or offering to help with finances. Abusers will often be pushy or relentless, but may also be seen as trying to be a support system for the elder.
Once the perpetrator has their foot in the door, the may ask for account information, power of attorney, or access to financial records, checks, and credit cards.
Be cautious of anyone asking for financial information, giving up rights via power of attorney, or becoming a trustee. Once these processes are complete, the abusers may have access to your entire financial picture and can leave elders penniless.
If you believe yourself or someone you know has fallen victim to financial abuse, please contact the authorities. Our senior population is vital to the continued success of our society, and abuse of our elder population leaves a negative impact on the future for all.