"You'd be surprised what people will do for money that they wouldn't do for love." ― Rachel Caine, author.
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Financial abuse of the elderly is an important topic here at www.sixtyandsingle.com because elderly women are frequently the victims.
A report from the Oregon Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations office reminds us that this is a growing and serious problem. To some extent we can blame the “wealth gap” between older people who have money and assets and their kids (and grand kids) who don’t.
It makes stealing (let's call it an early inheritance) tempting.
According to the Oregon study, the most likely culprit in an elder abuse case will be your daughter (or daughter-in-law).
The number of financial abuse reports increase 33 percent in Oregon between 2009 and 2012, according to the report. That totaled 2,870 cases in response to 34,000 calls reporting possible abuse (15,000 were investigated).
These cases involve stealing money from checking accounts, stealing money from investment funds, refinancing an elderly person's home and taking the equity money. There’s more --- Signing someone up for a reverse mortgage and taking the money, setting up unauthorized use of debit or credit cards. The victim may never see the bank statement or the credit card bill and has no clue that anything is going on.
The worst case in the Oregon report was that of an elderly woman in Eastern Oregon who assigned her son as trustee of her living trust. She had “amassed substantial assets including several homes, investment accounts and monthly income.” Randy, her son, who had no job, seemed to be spending a lot of money around town, so the Adult Protection Services reported him to investigators. The issue “appeared to have been solved” when the woman moved to an assisted living facility and the son left town. However he returned, resumed management of her finances, declined to pay the assisted living facility and then removed his mother from the facility.
She next appeared in another town after being admitted to a hospital. Before investigators could catch up with him, the son had taken her out of the hospital and relocated her to his home in yet another town.
Investigators in all three counties where the abuse had occurred filed reports with the police. The son was arrested on multiple charges (some unrelated to the abuse). The elderly mother was moved into another assisted living facility.
And another example from the Oregon report: Eva, age 84, paid $500 for each trip the caregiver drove her 19 miles to town for grocery shopping.
Since women more often survive their spouses and live into their 90s, they more often are the targets of abuse, say experts. By the way, it's not just money that tempts people, prescription drugs are also being stolen. In the Oregon report, females were the victims in 62 percent of the cases investigated and daughters were the most likely suspects.
Hard to prove
According to enforcement agencies, these cases are hard to prove because it's usually a family member who's doing the stealing and the elderly person is either clueless to the crime or reluctant to pursue a case against a child.
Oregon officials say that a weak economy and an aging population are a bad combination. It's about haves and have-not's. The parents have the money, the house....the kids may not have a job or any money. It's a tempting situation even if things start out on the up and up.
There's good news in all this. Many states including Oregon and Washington are stepping up training for enforcement officials and are putting more information out to the public on how to report abuse.
Banking associations are also providing more staff training on how to spot financial abuse. For example, the Oregon Bankers Association is distributing a prevention kit to bank employees.
Abuse cases can be reported anonymously.
In Oregon the number is 866-406-4287. In Washington state, call 866-363-4276. (Ignore the confusing voice mail message. This number is for child abuse, as well).
There’s also a national number that will then connect you with Adult Protection people in your community.
That number is 855-500-3537 or go to the National Center for Elder Abuse at http://www.aginginplace.org/guide-to-recognizing-elder-abuse/.
Many states including Oregon have made it mandatory for clergy, nurses, senior center employees and physicians (among others) to report elder abuse. In 2015, the Oregon list will be expanded to include attorneys and others.
My Advice: At some point you will likely need help managing your assets including paying bills, your investments and real estate. Hire a bank trust department to do it. Bankrate.com offers basic trust information, click here.
For a fee of 1- to 2- percent of total assets, a bank will pay all your bills, manage your assets and report back to you every month as required by law. The bank will even provide for your derelict children who may need your financial help and at the same time act as a gate-keeper for access to your money while keeping your best interests at the top of the list. The bank is the bad guy when the kids beg for money, not you.
Typical fee for an attorney to draw up a trust is about $1,000 to $1,500. A real savings in the face of financial abuse of tens of thousands of dollars.
"The scammers who bilked seniors out of more than half a billion dollars," from Michelle Singletary, click here. "
Reporting elder abuse in Oregon, click here.
National Center for Elder Abuse, click here.
"Why Should I Care about Elder Abuse?, click here.
Reporting elder abuse in Washington state, click here.
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I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
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