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How to Spot the Signs of Financial Abuse of the Elderly

When many people hear the term “nursing home abuse” they tend to think of physical abuse, which is indeed tragic.  However, there are other kinds of abuse that many families don’t consider when placing a loved one in a home, abuse that can have far-reaching consequences for an elderly resident.

This often overlooked type of nursing home and long-term facility care abuse is financial abuse.  The Virginia Department of Social Services Adult Services Programs states that “financial exploitation of adults 60 years of age or older or 18 years of age or older who are incapacitated occurs at a staggering rate”.

What is financial abuse of the elderly?

The VA Department of Social Services Adult Services Programs defines financial exploitation as “the mishandling, fraud, or theft of income, money, accounts, assets, or property by another person”.  Financial abuse is especially insidious because unlike physical abuse or neglect the signs of abuse are often not readily visible.

Who commits financial abuse?

The sad truth is that anybody can take financial advantage of an elderly nursing home resident.  Abusers can be family members, friends, nursing home staff members, nursing home owners or managers – pretty much anyone who has access to an elderly person.

Elderly men and women are also especially vulnerable to con artists and people claiming to work for fake charities.  No matter who is committing the financial abuse, the end result is the same: to take as much money from an elderly person as possible and not get caught.

How is financial abuse committed?

There are many ways that an elderly person can be subject to financial abuse.  Abusers can be sly and sneaky, using tricks or lies to get their way or they can use force and intimidation to frighten a resident into doing what they want.  Related abusers or trusted caregivers may simply abuse the elderly person’s feelings of love and duty to achieve their goals.

Sadly, elderly people suffering from dementia or other mental incapacitation are especially vulnerable.  Unable to understand what might be asked of them and unable to personally review their own finances, these individuals are at the mercy of financial abusers.

Warning signs of financial abuse

Some signs that an elderly person may be at risk for or experiencing financial abuse:

  • Unusual financial activity, especially activity inconsistent with the person’s ability (i.e. the use of an ATM card by a housebound person)
  • Unexpected changes to financial documents (i.e. adding a new person to the will)
  • Extravagant purchases that show up on the person’s bank records, especially purchases that the elderly person has no use for like jewelry, cars, designer clothes
  • Especially friendly or overbearing people in the elder’s life, particularly if they start spending a great deal of time with the elder
  • Long-lost relatives who suddenly express an interest in the elder, especially if the elder has a home or significant savings
  • Signatures on checks that don’t look like the elder’s signatures

If you are concerned that your loved one may be being abused or neglected at a Virginia nursing home, please don’t hesitate to ask for help.  You can contact the Warrenton or Culpeper attorneys at Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas  to discuss your case for no cost or obligation.