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Consumer Reports on Elder Financial Abuse

One of the more trusted names in community affairs and consumer rights issues recently published a helpful article that tackles an matter which should matter to all of us: elder financial abuse. Financial abuse of seniors often goes hand-in-hand with physical abuse or neglect. In all cases, however, the consequences for the elderly resident are severe. It often means the difference between living one’s golden years in happiness and spending them struggling to get by.

In addition, lack of access to appropriate resources following theft often has ripple effects on a senior’s health. While access to quality support services should not hinge on who is rich and who is poor–the sad reality is that finances very much do play a role in access to quality services. Whether or not one is able to afford at-home care services (like nurses) is affected by the senior’s finances. Similarly, the availability of certain long-term care facilities may be determined by money. Some homes do not accept Medicaid participants.

Long story short: everyone is well served by playing a role in eliminating senior financial abuse.

The Consumer Reports article itself was spurred by a segment on the Dr. Phil show which touched on these issues. The segment shared information about abuse by professionals in nursing homes as well as exploitation by relatives in a senior’s own home. In the aftermath of the segment, the consumer magazine conducted its own investigation to better understand the scope of the problem.

They found that the most comprehensive and reliable work on the subject was conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. That study suggested that a staggering $2.9 billion was lost each and every year in the United States as a result of senior financial exploitation. Even then, that figure is likely a gross underestimate, because the vast majority of these crimes goes unreported. According to other reports, the average amount lost by a senior is a scam is around $150,000. That is no small sum, and for seniors unable to work or recoup their losses, it can be a devastating event.

Anywhere from 5% to 14% of seniors may be victims of exploitation according to various reports. Most suggest that the perpetrators are both relatives and trusted individuals as well as strangers. The settings are widespread, from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to the senior’s own house. As long as the senior has money–often in the form of retirement savings–there are some willing to take it for their own personal gain.

Experts note the vigilance is the key to stopping the problem. Keeping a close eye on all suspicious activities affecting elder loved ones and asking tough questions is the key to uncovering mistreatment before it causes serious financial harm.

Helpful Resources
It is also important to remember that resources exist to help address the problem. Consumer Reports lists a range of helpful resources, some include:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for Older Americans

National Adult Protective Services Association

AARP Money Management Program

See Other Blog Posts:

Senior Scams-Warning Signs and Action Steps

Protecting Senior Pocketbooks: Who Is At Risk?