A son uses his elderly mother’s ATM card at casinos and liquor stores or takes her to the bank to withdraw money from her account. A woman reports that her sister stole thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry from their mother, who suffers from dementia. News accounts like these are rare. But reports about financial abuse of the elderly are increasing. The problem lurks largely in the shadows, because parents view it as a private family affair and are loathe to file a police report.
Financial exploitation affects at least 5 percent of older Americans. The majority is perpetrated by family members, especially adult children, say researchers. Victims’ average age is 75, and African Americans, the poor, disabled people, and elderly people living alone are common targets. The problem is so poorly understood that advocates are raising awareness—Elderly Abuse Awareness Day is June 15—and encouraging people to act when they suspect an elderly acquaintance, friend, or family member is the victim of financial abuse.
What’s so pernicious about parent abusone expert said, is that it often starts with good intentions. For example, a son initially might feel a sense of purpose in caring for his aging parent. But the feeling can turn into resentment. The next stage might be that he thinks he should be paid for his time as a caregiver or has a right to dip into his parent’s accounts to get an advance on an inheritance.
Read the Squared Away Blog post to find more research and tips for what to do if you suspect financial abuse.