Elderly adults often become victims of financial exploitation by caretakers and even family members, but it’s difficult to prove when it happens. Proving elder financial exploitation requires identifying the abuser, gathering documented evidence, and proving intentional harm.
What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?
Elderly adults in nursing home facilities, long-term care facilities, assisted-living facilities, and those receiving in-home care are common victims of elder financial exploitation at the hands of people taking care of them. Nursing home caretakers, in-home health workers, and even friends and family members may take advantage of elderly adults. Those with cognitive impairments, no other family members, few visitors, and isolated living conditions are especially at risk.
Elder financial exploitation involves the fraudulent use of an elderly person’s money or property. It is a calculated crime with the intent to defraud the victim, and commonly includes the following actions:
- Stealing or using the victim’s money or credit cards
- Stealing the victim’s valuables or personal belongings
- Writing forged checks
- Altering the name on bank accounts
- Altering the name on insurance policies, property titles, and wills
- Taking control of the elder’s power of attorney.
Although elder financial exploitation does not leave bruises and injuries like elder physical abuse, the long-term consequences are often just as devastating. Adults who have worked their entire lives to plan for old age can lose their entire savings at the hands of a deceitful person pretending to have their best interest at heart. Elderly adults often become victims of financial exploitation perpetrated by caretakers, relatives, and friends, as well as outside scam artists who prey on elderly homeowners.
Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
People who commit elder financial abuse are often seasoned criminals who have perpetrated this crime before. They know how to avoid getting caught, so proving elder financial exploitation can be difficult without a nursing home abuse lawyer who can gather enough pertinent information to support a lawsuit in court.
A perpetrator of elder financial exploitation usually takes time to get close to the victim and gain the victim’s trust. This is especially true among caregivers in nursing homes and in-home caregivers and workers who see an elderly adult on a daily basis. The financial abuse may not begin right away, but as soon as bonds of trust are formed, it becomes much easier. Perpetrators often use trusted positions as a way to gain the elderly victim’s confidence.
Elder financial exploitation is often a silent form of elder abuse that can go on for months or years before anyone realizes it’s happening. However, there are some signs that should raise red flags. If you suspect elder financial exploitation of a family member or friend by a nursing home or in-home caregiver, ask these important questions:
- Does this person make financial decisions for the elderly adult?
- Does this person offer strange explanations about money that has disappeared?
- Do you notice missing valuables or belongings?
- Do you notice increasing credit card charges or balances?
- Does this person have access to the elder’s bank accounts?
6. Is this person alone with the elder a lot of the time?
7. Is this person your elder’s only caregiver?
If you answer yes to all or most of these questions, it’s time to take a closer look at signs of nursing home neglect and elder financial exploitation.
Proving Financial Elder Abuse
According to Consumer Affairs, approximately 3.5 million elderly adults in the United States are financially exploited every year, but those are only the reported cases. The numbers are thought to be much higher because millions of elder financial exploitation cases go unreported. Many perpetrators are never identified and never pursued.
To take legal action, proving elder financial exploitation requires identifying the elderly victim, identifying the abuser, identifying where and how the abuse took place, gathering hard evidence, and proving the intent of financial exploitation. Suspicion of elder financial exploitation is justified, but you need evidence and a nursing home negligence lawyer to support a lawsuit in court.
Identifying the Elderly Victim
If you suspect financial exploitation of a family member or friend in a nursing home, you must prove his or her identity and age through valid documents such as a birth certificate, social security number, or other legal documents.
Identifying the Abuser
If your loved one resides in a nursing home, long-term care facility or assisted-living facility, identifying the person responsible for financial exploitation may not be as easy as it sounds. There may be multiple caregivers and staff members responsible for daily care. Identifying the abuser can be especially difficult if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Identifying Where and How the Abuse Took Place
Identifying where and how the financial exploitation took place can be tricky, because you need supporting evidence such as records of cash withdrawals, forged checks, credit card statements, banking statements, proof of missing valuables and belongings, and forged signatures on important documents.
The type of evidence you require depends on the type of financial exploitation that occurred. The best way to gather proper evidence is through a lawyer who handles elder financial exploitation cases.
Proving Intent of Financial Exploitation
Generally, most perpetrators of elder financial exploitation are well aware of their actions and how they are causing harm to their victims. It is an intentional action to get access to money, credit cards, valuables, and property. However, there may be some instances in which this is not the case. For instance, if the perpetrator who stole checks or jewelry turns out to be another nursing home resident, it’s likely that person may not be held accountable for his or her actions. Who is legally responsible for the elder’s financial losses? Is the nursing home liable?
When proving elder financial exploitation, there are federal and state laws and legal precedents that dictate how financial abuse against elders can be reported and pursued. To ensure successful results, it’s best to work with a lawyer who knows the laws and legal process.