Our Illinois elder abuse lawyers were encouraged this week to read about steps taken by our neighbor to the south to further protect seniors affected by neglect and mistreatment. The Missourian reported that Missouri law targeted senior financial exploitation has passed another legislative hurdle. Specifically, the state’s House voted almost unanimously to move legislation that would make it a crime “for those with authority over an elderly person to take advantage of that person’s state of mind for financial gain.”
The wording of the measure makes clear that it seeks to target individuals who have official control over a senior’s actions, like those who have guardianship, a power of attorney, or other position of influence over a senior’s finances.
The legislation has already been approved by the state’s Senate, and so the bill will now go to the Governor’s desk. There is no indication yet as to the Governor’s position on the measure. However, considering that there was widespread bipartisan support in both chambers, it would be surprising if the Governor had some issue with the legislation.
Our Illinois nursing home lawyers fully appreciate the problems associated with senior financial exploitation. This sort of misconduct is capable of occurring in nursing homes. There are many examples of aides and care workers who take advantage of residents for financial gain. That could include stealing outright or confusing residents into voluntarily departing with funds under false pretenses. In all cases it is reprehensible conduct that has to be rooted out.
Beyond the nursing home, elder abuse advocates consistently explain that this sort of misconduct is actually even more prevalent among seniors living in more independent situations. In some ways living in a nursing home is protection against this sort of abuse, because, in most cases, care workers have an eye on the senior’s financial situation and can identify if there are any irregularities. Seniors living on their own often do not have those outside observers helping to identify potential exploitation.
That is why seniors living at home are the most likely to lose funds to those seeking to enrich themselves. On one end of the spectrum are random scams, where con artists contact the senior and try to get the senior to give up sensitive information or send money for fraudulent purposes. The scammers in these cases usually make large sums by taking relatively smaller sums of money from many different seniors.
On the other end of the spectrum are abuses targeted by this Missouri legislation. In these cases individuals gain the trust of the senior and put themselves in a position where they have some actual control or influence over all of a senior’s finances. They then use that position to unfairly convince the senior to depart with their money-or steal it without the elder knowing what is going on.
It is this latter form of abuse that is particularly troubling, because it might involve an individual losing their entire life savings. In addition, it is always heartbreaking when the theft is perpetrated by someone-like a friend or family member-who the senior trusted.
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