Friday, August 13, 2010

Financial Elder Abuse – How Do We Stop It?

Dear readers: I was sent this guest comment from Paul Hench who writes on the topic of (masters in public health). The topic is financial elder abuse. Elder Abuse is a primary topic for this blog and I thought this article adds a worthy perspective. Please read:

Financial Elder Abuse – How Do We Stop It?

By Paul Hench

There’s no excuse for the abuse meted out to anybody, be it a child, an adult, or an elder. It’s worse in the case of children and the elderly because they’re helpless to prevent it and overwhelmed by the whole experience. In the case of the elderly, they’re exploited because they’re old and alone, helpless to defend themselves and forced to depend on the people who care for them. They’re especially vulnerable to financial abuse if they have some amount of money saved or a steady income.

And more often than not, it’s the caregivers who are responsible for the abuse. They may be family, distant relatives who have taken up the position hoping to get their hands on the money of the person they’re looking after; they may be people who are hired as caregivers and who hope to exploit the situation and milk it for all it’s worth. Whatever the reason, caregiver abuse happens because the elder they’re caring for has money and is ripe for the taking.

Some forms of abuse are direct – the caregiver threatens their charge either directly or using other people as a cover; but such cases may get reported to the police or to the family members of the elderly person. This is why most caregivers resort to underhand tactics to get the elderly to part with their money and/or valuable possessions. Some try to scam them into “donating” their money towards worthy causes; others pull on their heartstrings using sob stories about close relatives needing immediate medical attention or surgery. Yet others use tricks like telling them they’ve won the grand prize in a lottery, but that they need to cough up some money before they’re eligible to claim the winnings.

Some caregivers siphon money off the bank accounts of the elderly when they gain access to their credit cards, debit cards and ATM PIN numbers. They steal small amounts that are not immediately noticeable or bound to raise red flags. Others are more daring and resort to forging checks and transferring money to their own accounts or fictitious ones set up for this purpose.

I don’t mean to say that all caregivers are out to con the elderly they look after, just that the people who hire caregivers must check out their credibility before they allow them access to their homes and control over their lives. It’s not often possible to take every precaution there is, simply because the elderly cannot control every aspect of their lives – their lack of mobility, their tendency to contract mental illness, and their overall helplessness and weakness make them sitting ducks when unscrupulous caregivers choose to target them for financial abuse. It’s a social ill, one that only personal ethics and a sense of decency can cure.

By-line: This guest post is contributed by Paul Hench, he writes on the topic of mph degrees (http://www.mastersinpublichealth.net/). He welcomes your comments at his email id: paul.23hench@gmail.com.

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