When people hear the term “elder abuse” they generally imagine a gothic scenario where a caregiver physically or mentally abuses a helpless elderly person, physically or mentally unable to defend themselves. The scenario frequently plays out in the imagination (and all too often in real life) in nursing homes or other elder care facilities. Children often imagine they will be able to ensure their parents never suffer such abuse and indignities.
However, a much more destructive and more insidious form of abuse can be perpetrated on elderly parents – financial abuse. Financial abuse is frighteningly easy to commit when an elderly parent has begun to lose control of their affairs but has not yet been formally recognized as in decline. Sadly, while most financial abuse of the elderly is committed by relatives, even children, it is also often perpetrated by businesses either alone or in collusion with relatives, including the creation of new wills, insurance policies, or agreements to pay for unnecessary services. As a result they maintain full control over their finances, and predators can convince them to sign away assets, make cash payments, add them to bank accounts or credit cards, or simply use personal information to commit identity theft.
Like most other forms of elder abuse, financial abuse can be prevented or mitigated with the proper appointment of conservator or person holding a Durable General Power of Attorney.