Financial exploitation can happen to anyone. There are plenty of con artists and thieves out there willing to take your money. Some seniors are, unfortunately, at the most risk from members of their own family, neighbors and friends.
A family member, neighbor or friend can often prey on the sympathies and fears of an older person. They may even consciously know that they're being exploited, but are afraid of what will happen if they refuse -- especially if they feel like they need to rely on their exploiter for any of their needs.
If you realize that a family member or friend is abusing someone, what can you do?
- First of all, make peace with the idea that there's no easy way to deal with this. However, you have no reason to feel badly about bringing attention to the situation -- nor are you a troublemaker. The real troublemaker is the person committing the financial abuse.
- Contact law enforcement. There's usually an Adult Protective Services division and most will allow you to file a report anonymously if you are concerned about your safety.
- Keep in mind that the more specific you are in your statements, the easier it is for an investigation to proceed. For example, "My cousin is keeping my grandmother away from the doctor's office so that he can keep her out of a nursing home and continue living in her house and off her retirement check. She can no longer care for herself and he isn't keeping her clean or fed or getting her medication," is specific and helpful.
- You may need to name witnesses. If you're reluctant to involve anyone else, remember that police won't be able to do their jobs unless they can find proof of your allegations.
- Give the police any evidence you have. This might be pictures of the condition of the senior's house, photos of bruises, photos of empty cupboards (showing that they aren't being fed), copies of their bank statements or checks with forged signatures.
Ultimately, if you feel that you can do a good job handling the task, you may want to consider talking to an elder law attorney about how to prevent something like that happening again in the future. A financial and medical power of attorney could give you the right to step in and put a halt to any suspect activity.
Source: AgingCare.com, "Preventing Financial Abuse and Exploitation of Elderly Parents," Carolyn Rosenblatt, accessed Feb. 07, 2018