Doctors Called to Act on Financial Abuse of the Elderly

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—The World Health Organization projects that those over 60 years old will double from 600 million today to 1.2 billion by 2025. Critical to the increased aging population is a rise in elder abuse.

"Investing in the care and safety of our elderly not only protects some of the most vulnerable members of society but it also creates an economic return for the community," said David Thomason, consultant with LeadingAge Texas, Co., a membership organization of not-for-profit faith and community based groups dedicated to serving Texas retirees.

More than 7.3 million senior citizens have already been taken advantage of financially, and medical professionals could be doing more to stop the national trend, according to a new study by Investor Protection Trust (IPT).

"Doctors and nurses must play an important front line role if we are going to do a better job of spotting older Americans who have been or are being victimized by investment fraud and other financial exploitation," said Don Blandin, president and CEO of IPT.

An Investor Protection Trust (IPT) survey of 603 U.S. doctors and the nurses who work with the elderly found that 21% are aware they are dealing with victims of investment fraud and financial exploitation, and 92% think seniors are vulnerable because of mild cognitive impairment.

"Doctors know that older Americans are not to blame if they suffer from mild cognitive impairment," said Dr. Robert Roush, director, Texas Consortium Geriatric Education Center, Huffington Center on Aging, Baylor College of Medicine. "It is a medical condition that can have very serious consequences when it comes to how susceptible older Americans are to con artists and others seeking to exploit them financially. That is why it makes so much sense for investor educators to reach out to doctors and the nurses that work with them."

About 61% of doctors in the survey said they'd be interested in continuing medical education (CME) credits to learn more about spotting the signs of investment fraud/financial exploitation of the elderly. To date, a total of 52 CME events have been held in 25 states and the District of Columbia, providing prevention training to 3,625 medical professionals.

"State securities regulators are working with thousands of doctors across the United States to make sure that they learn the symptoms of this problem and what to prescribe in terms of help from the experts who are standing by to provide it," said Blandin.

A study by MetLife Mature Market Institute estimated the financial loss from abuses to be at least $2.6 billion a year. Examples of investment fraud and financial exploitation include unreasonably high fees for financial services, an inappropriate investment and fraud.

"Policymakers would do well to remember those frail and aging members of our communities not only because it is the right thing for human rights but because it is the right thing to do economically. The aging boom is just beginning and where we go with our policy decisions in the next several years will be critical to stemming the epidemic of elderly abuse and discrimination," said Thomason.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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