When You Should Act on Red Flags of Elder Abuse
Written by Jeff Meyer on July 9, 2015
While it’s unpleasant to think about – especially if you have older family members – the unfortunate truth is that elder abuse happens all too often. However, there are things to look for, and things you can do, if you suspect an older friend or family member is being subjected to elder abuse.
A Growing Problem
According to 2010 US Census data, the number of Americans over the age of 65 has increased to 13 percent as medical science continues to progress and life expectancy improves. This means that the number of elderly available to take advantage of is increasing as well; in fact, a research study conducted by MetLife has found that nearly 35 percent of those targeted for abuse and financial exploitation are the elderly.
Elder abuse can take many forms, only one of which is actual physical abuse or neglect. Financial abuse and exploitation is one of the most common methods employed against older Americans.
Who’s Getting Abused – And Who’s Doing the Abusing
When it comes to what types of people end up getting targeted for elder abuse over others, the research has shown that women, rather than men, are a preferred target. The rationale behind the decision is likely because of the statistical likelihood that women live longer than men, though their male counterparts can be and are targeted by abusers as well.
However, women tend to be more susceptible. Since they tend to live alone or with a relative that isn’t their spouse, are usually well-heeled thanks to resources and assets such as savings accounts and real estate holdings, and tend to suffer from chronic illnesses, this can make it easy for them to be isolated by a caregiver with ulterior motives.
As far as the individuals that routinely attempt to commit elder abuse, the MetLife research found that it’s nearly as likely that a close friend or family member would do it as a professional con artist with no direct connection to the person. While these strangers may rely on the gullibility of older Americans – especially those that might be suffering from age-related dementia – elder abuse from a familiar source can be just as damaging; sometimes even more so, thanks to the pre-existing relationship at play.
What to Look Out for and How to Stop It
Thankfully for any friends or family members concerned about elder abuse, there are several so-called “red flags” to look out for. Of course, identifying possible elder abuse is just the first step – the final goal is to put an end to it. These red flags include:
- A sudden lack of clothing, food, or medical care where the person normally wasn’t lacking
- An abrupt appearance of a new “friend” or caregiver seemingly from nowhere
- Confusion about misplaced cash and lost credit cards or complaints of stolen valuables and other financial documents like Social Security checks or checkbooks
- Joint bank accounts being created suddenly, uncharacteristic bank withdrawals, or any other changes to the banking practices of the older person
- Abrupt asset transfers or changes to legal documents such as a will to favor a caregiver with no discernable cause
- Nervousness or reluctance to speak about financial matters when the new caregiver or friend is present
If you see several of these warning signs, or even one, you may have stumbled across an instance of elder abuse. Don’t panic – there are steps you can take. If you’re uncomfortable with a direct confrontation with the caregiver, speak to the older person alone. Contacting the Elder Abuse Hotline for your state, or speaking to an elder law attorney, are also excellent tactics for putting an end to elder abuse before it becomes a serious problem.
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