Elder financial abuse is unfortunately common. In many ways, our elders are the most precious, wise members of our society. And yet, at the same time, they can also be the most vulnerable. Suffering from physical or mental debilitations due to aging can make it difficult to protect oneself against those who would seek to take advantage.
While this can lead to all types of abuse in nursing homes, including physical abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse, the type of abuse we want to focus on here is financial abuse, wherein an individual or organization takes advantage of an elder to either steal or defraud them of their money or possessions.
Below, we are going to take a look at what you should watch for that could signal elder financial abuse is occurring.
If you believe that you or a loved one is currently suffering from elder financial abuse, we encourage you to free out as soon as possible for a FREE consultation. At Boller & Vaughan, our experienced attorneys have successfully defended the rights of many elders throughout Wisconsin, and we are here to help you.
If you keep an eye on your loved one’s finances, you should have a good handle on when to expect withdrawals and any other activity. If you notice anything out of the ordinary or suspicious, you should speak with your loved one as soon as possible to discuss the reason for the movement to determine if it is something to be concerned about.
As with withdrawals or transfers, if someone else is added to your loved one’s accounts without you expecting it, it may be a sign that someone has gained their trust – or managed to unlawfully login to their accounts – and gained access to their financial accounts. Beyond discussing the situation with your loved one, we recommend getting in touch with the bank as soon as possible to inquire about the changes, as well.
It is unfortunately not uncommon for someone to intentionally get close to an elderly individual in an effort to reap a financial benefit, including being added to wills, trusts, and other documents.
It may be an employee of the nursing home, a visitor, or even a family member. Sadly, they may even attempt to turn your loved one against those currently on these documents, positioning themselves as a trusted friend.
If your loved one suddenly does not have an interest in discussing their finances, this could be a sign that someone else is controlling their money. It may also be related to dementia or feeling stressed about finances, but it’s important to always dig deeper if their attitude towards money changes quickly and they hesitate or refuse to talk about it.
Like unexplained withdrawals, missing personal property is a tell-tale sign that someone may be stealing from your loved one. That said, your loved one may not realize it; they may think that their laptop was taken for repair or that they have simply misplaced something valuable.
It is critical to report these missing items as soon as possible to the nursing home staff and you may want to consider removing any valuables from their rooms until you get to the bottom of the matter.
When elders experience dementia, cognitive decline, or other mental challenges that could affect their decision-making, these challenges should be addressed and treated as quickly as possible. If a nursing home staff is aware of these issues but not treating them, it could be a sign that someone on the staff is using your loved one’s declining state for their own gain.
That said, no one knows your loved one’s usual behavior as well as you do, which is why you should never wait to alert nursing home staff that something isn’t right and ask them for a treatment plan.
Like other forms of nursing home abuse, financial abuse can result in serious emotional suffering and pain. An elder may feel confused, embarrassed, or ashamed about being taken advantage of. Or they may be afraid of someone who is using threats as a means of gaining access to their finances.
Regardless of the reason, you should never take social withdrawal lightly but instead begin looking for the underlying cause and address it as soon as possible.
If someone has befriended your loved one, it could be great news. Maybe they are a new resident at the nursing home or a member of the staff they have connected with. But you should take note of these new or unknown friends to make sure you can protect your loved one in case it is someone who is trying to get close to them in an effort to take advantage of them.
While it is sad that you have to be so vigilant to ensure your loved one’s protection from financial abuse or exploitation, it is the best way to keep them safe.
That said, even the most attentive caretakers miss things and their loved ones are taken advantage of without them realizing it. Or, in some cases, you know exactly who has been exploiting your loved one, but they claim to have a legitimate cause for receiving payments or assets from your loved one, or for being included in their will or other financial documents.
In these situations, it can be frightening for everyone involved. After all, nursing home care is not cheap and if your loved one relied on the money and assets they had left, it could put your entire family in a difficult financial situation.
At Boller & Vaughan, we’re here to provide the guidance, insight, and hands-on support you need to fight for your loved one’s rights. If you suspect they are experiencing financial abuse at a nursing home or other assisted care facility, please get in touch with the Madison attorneys at Boller & Vaughan today for a FREE consultation by calling (608) 268-0268 or by filling out our contact form.
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