The Department of Children and Family is investigating a report of potential financial elder abuse in The Villages. A woman with dementia allegedly gave $1 million to a man she had met at an assisted living facility. This reported decision — which has caused the woman’s daughter to seek power of attorney and legal options, according to Villages News — highlights just how important it is for families to protect the finances of their loved ones with dementia.
The dementia patient allegedly gave the entire contents of her bank account to a man she met at Atria Senior Living Facility on County Road 466. The man reportedly used this money to buy a house and pay for the patient’s bills, according to Villages News.
Although the woman claims to have willingly given the man her money, the DCF and Sumter County law enforcement officials are investigating for possible financial elder abuse, given the woman’s diagnosis of dementia and the large sum of money involved.
What are the signs of financial elder abuse and what can families do to protect their loved ones with dementia from it?
Common Signs of Financial Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a serious problem in our country and approximately 1 in 10 seniors in America has experienced some form of abuse, according to the National Council on Aging. This abuse takes many forms, including neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation.
The most common signs of financial exploitation of seniors, according to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, include:
- Unpaid bills, cut off utilities
- Suspicious withdrawals and transfers
- Missing financial documents or blank checks
- Suspicious signatures on checks and documents
- Sudden change in Power of Attorney
- Suspicious new “friends” in the senior’s life
Protecting Loved Ones with Dementia From Financial Extortion
Although abuse can impact all seniors, older adults with forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's Disease are especially susceptible to financial extortion and other forms of elder abuse, as they will often be unable to report or recognize the abuse, according to the Institute on Aging.
Worse yet, nearly 50 percent of seniors with dementia experience some type of abuse, according to a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
One of the best ways to protect your loved one with dementia from financial abuse is by being present and involved in their life, as the majority of elder abuse victims are vulnerable and isolated from family and friends who can spot and report the abuse.
Along with being there for your loved one, there are a number of measures that families can take to protect their family members with dementia from financial extortion.
Monitor the Senior's Finances
Often times, families will fail to realize their loved one is being financially extorted until their nest egg is gone, much like in the report of suspected elder financial abuse in The Villages.
Families should take the time to review their senior loved one’s documents, bank statements, and other financial information at least once a year, according to Fidelity Investments. This annual financial check-up should including reviewing for suspicious will or estate changes, large withdrawals, and other signs that a fraudster may be taking advantage of your loved one’s dementia.
Enlist the Help of the Senior’s Financial Team
Families should know their loved one’s financial team, including their attorney, tax adviser, and financial adviser, advises Fidelity. Speak to these professionals about your fears of financial extortion and establish safeguards against suspicious financial activity.
Protect Their Financial Documents
In addition to reviewing financial information, be sure to also keep these physical documents in a safe place on behalf of your loved one with dementia. Unscrupulous individuals can too easily forge signatures and abuse access to blank checks to the detriment of the senior in your life.
Carefully Screen Potential Caretakers
Scammers may seek to get close to an older adult who is isolated or has dementia in order to gain access to their finances. Criminals will often pose as personal care attendants or counselors and seek employment with vulnerable seniors, according to NCPEA.
Families who are hiring professional caretakers to aid in the care of their aging parent or loved one should always conduct a background check or go through an home care agency that performs these background checks before hiring anyone, advises the National Center on Caregiving. These professionals should be licensed, certified, and free of a criminal background.
Elder Abuse Takes Many Forms
Elder abuse can go far beyond financial extortion. Do you suspect that your loved one has suffered neglect or abuse at the the hands of a caretaker or nursing home employee? We may be able to help.
Read more to learn how our nursing home and elder abuse attorneys will fight to try and recover compensation for seniors who have been harmed by negligence, abuse, and more. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.