Financial Abuse Devestates Older People


According to, financial abuse is the theft or embezzlement of money or any other property from an elder. This form of abuse can be devastating because an elder victim's life savings can disappear in the blink of an eye, leaving him or her unable to provide for basic needs and afraid of what an uncertain tomorrow will bring.


Financial abuse is, sadly, more common than most of us realize. Here's what happens. A beloved older person begins to fail. The family is unable to give constant care because of distance in miles, the requirements of a job, and/or a demanding personal family life. A caregiver appears and seems willing and able to manage the care. The family is relieved and gradually comes to depend on the caregiver for information and even emotional support.


As time goes by, the caregiver takes over the elder's checkbook to balance it, to pay bills, and buy groceries and other needed items. Eventually, the caregiver obtains a power of attorney to better manage the elder's affairs.


According to Aging Today, the bi-monthly newspaper of the American Society on Aging, "legal instruments such as power of attorney, can become tools of manipulation, fraud and deceit."


Common Signs of Financial Elder Abuse


According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, there may usually signs or clues that abuse has occurred. Sometimes events can be explained by other causes or factors so it's best to look for patterns or clusters of clues that suggest a problem. Here are a few things to look for:


# Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities


# Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain


# Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder's home


# New "best friends"


# Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn't understand at the time he or she signed them


# Unusual activity in the older person's bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals


# The general care provided to the older person does not fit the size of his/her estate


# A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person


# Belongings or property are missing


# Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents


# Absence of documentation about financial arrangements


# Implausible explanations given about the elderly person's finances by the elder or the caregiver


# The elder is unaware of or does not understand financial arrangements that have been made for him or her

What to Do


Any time you suspect an older adult is in imminent danger, call the police. The police are trained to help.


If you suspect an older adult is being abused, make some notes for yourself about why you think this is the case. Then contact the Adult Protective Services Agency in your state. This agency is typically responsible for investigating reports of elder abuse and providing families with help and guidance. A list of all state agencies with phone numbers is available as a download below.


List of State Adult Protective Services Offices >>Download


These agencies take care of a lot of different problems so you may have to speak to more than one person but be patient, the help is truly valuable.


Every state has an elder abuse hotline too. The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) offers a list of community partners. >>More