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Study highlights troubling elements of financial abuse of elderly

Any instance of abuse committed against an elderly person is upsetting. Often, victims are vulnerable to begin with. Abuse only exacerbates difficult situations, from financial instability to physical frailty. Those who commit these acts are often people who are supposed to be protecting the victim.

Unfortunately, a recent study revealed that the people most likely to exploit their role in protecting an elderly person is a family member -- particularly in cases of financial abuse. 

A serious issue

The study examined calls made to a resource line for the National Center on Elder Abuse. Out of roughly 2,000 calls and messages, about 48 percent involved family members as those accused of abuse. And in 61 percent of those cases, the abuse was financial.

The sample size is relatively small in the study; however, it is reflective of the fact that elder abuse is underreported in the first place. The National Adult Protective Services Association estimates that roughly 1 in 20 elderly adults may be victims of financial abuse, though just 1 in 44 cases are reported.

What victims, families can do

There are signs of financial abuse that may become evident the moment it occurs. It is prudent to know and take seriously the signs, as it could put a stop to it before the situation becomes worse. 

Reporting alleged financial abuse is crucial. Loved ones or victims who suspect financial abuse can file a complaint with the Adult Protective Services agency in Orange County or county in which the victim lives.

Concerned parties can also contact an attorney, banks, social workers, physicians and/or other parties who may be able to address the issue. This coordinated team approach may result in intervention and appropriate action against the alleged perpetrator.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a devastating situation, and unfortunately, it is more common than people may think. As such, it is important to talk to your elderly loved ones and follow up on any suspicion or allegation that someone they trust is exploiting them.

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