Financial Elder Abuse Still Rampant Across the United States



Every year, elder financial abuse costs Americans more than $36 billion. Sadly, one in every five senior citizens — age 65 years old or older — has been abused financially at some point in their lifetime.

While this phenomenon has gotten lots of attention in recent years, it’s still difficult to track every instance of financial abuse, especially among the elderly. There are few comprehensive statistics tracking power-of-attorney, for instance, but the MetLife Mature Market Institute, a research unit of insurer MetLife Inc., put the annual financial loss suffered by victims of elder abuse in 2009, including exploitation of powers of attorney, at roughly $2.6 billion.

And that figure is probably a massive understatement. According to the New York Post, only one in 44 financial elder abuse cases are ever reported, meaning there are billions of more dollars unaccounted for due to lack of reporting. A major reason these abuses are seldom reported is because they often involve a victim’s family member. The senior citizen doesn’t suspect their own relative of exploiting them so nothing gets reported and the abuser continues taking advantage of them.

“It’s not only exploitation,” said Joey Keahiolalo, chief program officer for the non-profit organization Child and Family Service. “They actually sometimes are at risk of just not knowing how to take care of themselves, and they don’t always have caregivers that are involved and they don’t know where to go for help.”

As KHON 2 reports, education and awareness are essential when it comes to combatting this unfortunate epidemic. Caregivers, family members, and elderly loved ones need to learn exactly what to look out for.

“People are losing their entire life savings,” added attorney Scott Spallina. “They’re losing their homes. They’re losing everything. There are resources out there, so if you are a victim of a crime, no need to be ashamed. No need to keep it to yourself. Tell somebody. Report it.”

If we have any chance of helping our elderly loved ones and preventing devastating financial losses and abuse, we have to improve the way we communicate with senior citizens. Far too many people don’t take what the elderly say too seriously, which could lead to confusion and frustration on their end. When people communicate, 45% of the time is supposed to be spent listening — but that’s not always the case when interacting with the elderly. You have to really sit down and hear them out so you can identify any mistakes they are making online, on the phone, or in person. If you hear any red flags, it’s important to act fast to really put an end to any abuse that’s going on.

It’s up to each individual person to do their part against this nationwide issue. Be as vigilant as possible, no matter what, if you’re in charge of caring for an elderly loved one. Pay attention to any specific changes in routine or appearance and communicate with them as effectively as possible.

For more information about identifying or reporting elder financial abuse, contact the Elder Abuse Justice Unit at 808-768-7536.

Leave a Reply