Most of us know how to identify if our senior loved one has been a victim of physical abuse or neglect. Financial exploitation, however, can be much harder to recognize.
Research tells us that Older Americans are being scammed out of approximately $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion per year due to financial exploitation. Unfortunately, only 1 out of 14 cases of exploitation are reported to authorities.
This lack of reporting may be because the senior is embarrassed or is unable to identify that the exploitation is occurring. Educating seniors, professionals, and caregivers is critical to helping prevent this type of exploitation and abuse from occurring. This is why we want to share a few tips to help protect the senior loved one in your life from becoming a victim of financial exploitation.
1. Educate your senior loved one about common signs.
Financial exploitation can take many forms. Taking the time to go over common scams such as telemarketing scams, lottery scams, home repair scams, and many others, can help your loved one identify if they are being targeted. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that many elders are exploited by those closest to them. Family members, spouses, and staff members of nursing homes or assisted living facilities can be perpetrators, and this may be harder to guard against. Educating your senior loved one about this possibility may help them recognize if exploitation is occurring.
2. Encourage your loved one to create a durable power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney is an important legal document that can help protect your loved one from financial exploitation. This document allows the creator to appoint a close friend or family member as an agent with authority over the creator’s medical and financial decisions. We encourage you to discuss this planning option with your senior loved one. This can allow someone trusted to watch over your loved one’s finances, notice if something does not look right, and take appropriate actions.
3. Engage in frequent conversations with your loved one.
One of the best ways to identify if exploitation is occurring is to regularly check-in with your senior loved one. Whether it is in person, through a phone call, or Skype video chat, frequently engaging in conversations with your loved one and asking important questions such as “Did anything happen that made you uncomfortable this week?” and “Did you receive any unusual phone calls asking for your personal or financial information?” can help you quickly notice if something is awry.
We know this can be a difficult topic to think about and discuss with your senior loved one. Having an open conversation, however, can help you and others close to your loved one screen for and identify if abuse or exploitation is occurring. Do not hesitate to contact us with your questions or if you are ready to speak to an experienced Florida Elder Law attorney about planning to protect your senior loved one.