The United States Department of Justice defines Elder Financial Exploitation this way,
“a person commits financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability when he or she stands in a position of trust or confidence with the elderly person or a person with a disability and he or she knowingly and by deception or intimidation obtains control over the property of an elderly person or a person with a disability or illegally uses the assets or resources of an elderly person or a person with a disability.”
There are so many parts of this statement that makes most of us angry such as the words “deception”, and “intimidation”, yet the National Council on Aging reports that 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ experienced some form of elder abuse with financial abuse being reported at the highest rate (above emotional, physical, sexual and neglect). You are probably thinking that elder abuse wouldn’t happen in your family or to yourself or neighbor but studies show in almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Sadly, two thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses. Learn more from the National Council on Aging here.
What should you do as you age to help protect yourself?
- Do not give personal information over the phone
- Send and open your own mail
- Keep your own cell phone
- Use direct deposit for all checks
- Consolidate your accounts to keep things simple
- Stay active in your community and connected with friends and family. This will decrease social isolation which is often associated with elder abuse.
Legally Protecting Yourself is Essential
Even with trusted family members, it is important to legally protect yourself by creating a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and keeping your will updated. In addition, you should have a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare and HIPAA release form.
What if I Don’t Have a Trusted Family Member or Friend?
Hurley Elder Care Law offers an Aging Ally program which is intended to provide extra support to older adults who do not have a designated healthcare and/or financial agent. We can step into that role, becoming a hired advocate and decision-maker when necessary.
Our team of professionals can become the client’s healthcare and/or financial agent, providing decision-making services, oversight of healthcare and financial affairs, and protection of financial and physical well-being.
Recent Financial Regulations and Safeguards
In addition to following these suggestions, you may also want to establish a relationship with a financial advisor or banker. In 2018 new regulations were put into place to encourage people who are in a position to detect elder financial abuse-including brokers, bankers and financial advisors, to act and report if they suspect exploitation. FINRA, the self- regulatory agency that oversees brokers, now requires them to ask customers of all ages to provide the name of a trusted contact. The broker can then reach out to that person if they think the client is being financially exploited. This safeguard is also important to protect people who are suffering cognitive impairment from themselves if they attempt to withdraw large sums not in line with their ordinary behavior.
The Senior Safe Act also enables employees of financial institutions to report concerns about elder financial abuse without fear of being held liable for disclosing private information.
As cases of elder financial abuse have risen in recent years, it is now of even greater concern as our seniors are more isolated due to COVID-19, and cases are drastically increasing. It is all of our responsibility to protect the well-being of our nation’s vulnerable population. Call Hurley Elder Care Law at 404-843-0121 with any questions or concerns.