Do you know the signs of elder financial abuse when you see them?
It's estimated that there are around 23 instances of elder abuse that go undetected and unreported for every one that is spotted. Many times, that abuse is psychological and financial more than physical. If you have an older adult in your life whom you worry about, make sure that you know the most common indicators of financial abuse in the elderly. These include:
Drained bank accounts: If a senior has always been thrifty, but money is suddenly missing from a savings or checking account, it's time to ask questions about who has access to the money or where the money has gone.
Sudden debt: Credit cards can be a problem at any age. However, if a senior's credit card bills seem to be climbing for no obvious reason, ask if an authorized user may be taking liberties.
Financial difficulties: If the utilities aren't being paid, creditors are calling and the senior seems to be "doing without" the basic necessities like food, laundry detergent and shampoo, it could be a symptom of financial abuse. However, it may also be a sign of dementia or other illness.
Missing items: When a senior's favorite pieces of jewelry or valuable antiques go missing, that's cause for concern. Find out who has them -- and how they got into their possession.
Changes in habits: Many people have personal routines that involve shopping, going out to breakfast or lunch, sending cards and so on. If those habits suddenly change, find out if there's an economic concern that's the cause.
Personality changes: A sudden shift in a senior's mood, including signs of nervousness, depression or fear should always be a concern -- and could be a symptom of abuse of many sorts.
Many times, a proactive approach with the help of an elder law attorney can protect vulnerable adults from being financially exploited during their twilight years. If you detect signs of abuse, take steps now to protect your loved one.