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Elderly relatives may need protection from financial abuse

On Behalf of | Dec 10, 2021 | Estate Planning

As seniors grow older, some may require assistance from relatives or health care professionals. Unfortunately, the people who should help seniors sometimes take advantage of them instead. Financial exploitation is a form of elder abuse that many seniors fail to report because of fear.

U.S. News describes common reasons why exploiting an elder’s finances could go unreported. In many situations, relatives or trusted caretakers take advantage of vulnerable adults. It may occur several times or until a senior understands the damage.

Common signs of elder exploitation

Regular visits with a senior could help loved ones identify the warning signs of a caretaker causing financial harm. Feelings of shame may indicate that a vulnerable adult experienced a financial loss. If he or she seems reluctant to discuss it, relatives may need to ask several questions.

A review of a senior’s bank or credit card statements may reveal unusual spending patterns. Finding unpaid bills or disconnected utilities could also serve as signs of exploitation. Missing cash or changes in a will may require an investigation into whether a caregiver has abused his or her position of trust.

How to help prevent financial abuse

As reported by AARP, senior financial exploitation results in approximately $6.3 billion worth of losses each year. Some vulnerable adults may hesitate to report their circumstances because they depend on the individuals that are exploiting them.

A financial power of attorney, however, could reduce the risk of abuse. A POA authorizes a trusted individual to oversee a senior’s finances. Managing a bank account, for example, becomes the responsibility of the named representative instead of a caregiver.

Financial exploitation and elder abuse generally take place between a senior and a trusted individual tasked with caretaking. A power of attorney could establish a division of labor. Separating financial responsibilities from caregiving could help to identify when a caretaker has overstepped a senior’s boundaries.