Elder Financial Abuse Reaching Crisis Levels


Elder financial abuse is an “epidemic” and likely to become much worse given that 77 million baby boomers are entering their so-called “retirement” years (See “Golden years? Financial elder-abuse now epidemic,” Andrew Osterland, InvestmentNews). Between 500,000 and 5 million elders are abused, neglected or exploited each year, and the abuse is often unreported. “Elders can be afraid to report abuse, for a variety of reasons,” one practitioner was quoted as saying, adding: “In many cases, they may depend on the abuser and fear reprisals from them. They may be afraid of being placed in a nursing home or dread the stigma of domestic violence.”

Fifty eight percent of elder abuse involves financial exploitation. Financial abuse is often accompanied by emotional abuse. In many cases, the abuser is a family member who has been appointed as attorney-in-fact or guardian for the elder, or one who is offended at not being so appointed.

The abuser is a spouse, child or relative in 78% of elder-abuse cases according to 2010 statistics from the Illinois Department on Aging. In one infamous example, actor Mickey Rooney reportedly said he had food and water withheld from him by his stepson, who allegedly stole over $400,000 from him.

Professionals often have occasion to suspect that a client, friend or family member is being abused or is losing the capacity to make financial decisions. If diminished mental capacity or abuse is suspected, the professional should express those concerns to family and friends of the victim and, where appropriate, to legal counsel.

Page Perry is an Atlanta-based law firm with over 170 years of collective experience maintaining integrity in the investment markets and protecting investor rights.