NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Financial Safety for the Elderly

Financial Safety for the Elderly

 

          For those with less than ethical views and actions, the elderly are often seen as an easy target.  The elderly and retired may have regular income from pensions, retirement funds or savings plan. They may have financial equity in their home or collections which are valuable and easily liquidated.  All of which adds up to the potential of the elderly being abused by someone who gains their trust.  Examples of financial abuse include:

          - Forcing or tricking an older adult into selling his or her house or taking out a second mortgage on their property.

          - Stealing money or personal belongings

          - Forging a signature on pension/retirement checks or legal papers such as a will

          - Misusing a power of attorney for personal expenses

          -Not allowing an older person to use their funds to purchase needed items such as clothing, prescriptions, etc.

          - Forcing an older adult to do something, such as babysit or share his/her house without paying for it.

 

          How common is financial abuse of seniors? That statistic is not easily determined as financial abuse is not defined in the same way by everyone and many elderly victims s do not report abuse because they feel shame, guilt or fear of retaliation.  One study in Canada found that eight percent of older adults had been financially abused, losing, on average, $20,000 each. The abuser may or may not be a relative; they may have known the elderly person for decades or they may be a new acquaintance. Abusers may gain access to an older person's money or belongings by manipulation, outright lies, threats or promising to care for the older person.   

          Financial abuse is usually a pattern rather than a single event. It often happens over a long period of time. Financial abuse can be difficult to identify or recognize. Here are some signs that financial abuse might be happening-  

- Large sums of money are taken from a bank account.

- Signatures on checks or other papers look suspicious.

- The older person is in debt and does not know why.

- Bank statements are no longer being sent to the older person's home.

- The older person cannot buy food or personal care items, or pay bills.

- The older person's will is unexpectedly changed.

- The older person's home is unexpectedly sold.

- Personal belongings, such as clothes or jewelry, are missing

- The older person is asked to sign legal papers (such as a power of attorney, a will or a joint deed to a house) without being able to understand what they mean.

- The older person cannot remember signing papers or making certain money transfers.

- The older person is not allowed to decide or speak for himself/herself.

- The older person is isolated from friends and family.

- The older person feels afraid or worried when talking about money.

          There are legal ways to stop the abuse, protect people who are being abused, and retrieve money or belongings.  Some of the ways others can help are to give the older person information on financial abuse, give them information about support services, advocate for the older person and  encourage the older person to make new friends or participate in community activities.

 

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