It's fitting that Saturday, just one day before Fathers Day, has been designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day to consider all the ways we can protect older dads--and moms--from victimization.
Elder abuse takes many forms: financial, physical, emotional, and sexual. In a recent Consumer Reports investigation of elder financial abuse, we found that financial, physical and emotional victimization often go hand in hand, especially when the perpetrator is a relative or someone close to the older person. "Financial abuse is often the motivator for beating up Grandpa or neglecting Mom," says Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the National Adult Protective Services Association. "You're not getting her the care she needs because you want the money for yourself."
Sadly, many acts of fraud are perpetrated by family members. Kin who seem reliable can turn bad from greed or desperation. They can coerce an older relative into giving up money or control of assets, threaten or intimidate, or steal outright. They can ask a cognitively impaired person for repeated loans and never try to repay. Or they can abuse power of attorney or a joint account to siphon funds.
And new scams by strangers are unfolding all the time. In recent weeks, reports have surfaced of a new phone scam in which callers tell seniors they're eligible for a "free" medical alert system, and then sock them with unwanted monthly bills to operate the system--or worse, to obtain seniors' credit-card or Social Security numbers, or to sell them something else.
Keep your eyes open this Fathers Day
If your older dad or granddad lives alone and receives care from a professional or relative, be suspicious if he has become socially isolated, never seems to be available or able to come to the phone, or is hesitant to have contact with others unless his or her caregiver is present. Beware, too, of the new "best friend." Also be on alert for:
• Unpaid bills when someone else has been designated to make payments.
• Missing property, large or unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, or transfers between accounts.
• Excessively large reimbursements or "gifts" to caregivers or friends.
• New authorized signers on a person's bank account.
• Changes in banks or attorneys.
• Bank statements and canceled checks no longer coming to the person's home.
• Unfamiliar signatures on checks and other documents.
• Changes in spending patterns, such as purchases of items the senior doesn't need.
• Lack of personal amenities such as clean clothes and grooming items.
• Changes in documents such as a will or power of attorney, or a change in beneficiaries that the senior can't completely explain or comprehend.
• Excessive interest in the senior's finances by a caregiver, friend, or relative.
Consumer Reports' extensive coverage of elder financial abuse offers many more tips for people to protect the seniors they know and love, ideas for how seniors can protect themselves, a "what would you do?" Q&A by elder-abuse experts, and a list of numerous resources to turn to for information and help.
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