Elder financial abuse, defined as unauthorized or improper use of senior citizens’ resources for personal monetary gain, is more prevalent and costly than previously thought, according to a new study. Common examples include taking money or property without permission, forging signatures, and deceiving or coercing an elder into signing a deed, will, or other financial document.
According to Allianz Life’s 2016 Safeguarding Our Seniors Study, which surveyed 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 64 who actively provided care for an elder or could be in that position within the next five years, senior financial abuse is becoming increasingly common and financially devastating. The study found that 37 percent of active caregivers care for an elder who has experienced financial abuse, with an average loss of $36,000, marking a 20 percent increase from the insurance company’s last study in 2014. 40 percent of active and potential caregivers reported that a senior they care for has experienced financial abuse multiple times, almost double the estimate from 2014. 90 percent of active and potential caregivers also experienced financial impact from abuse.
The rates of abuse increased for elders with dementia or mental decline, and the average amount of loss was significantly higher at $41,000. In addition to monetary damages, financial abuse leads to more isolation, depression, and anxiety in seniors. Abuses often go unreported, as these elders feel guilt and shame and do not know to whom they should report the abuse. This issue is likely to only get worse as the American population generation continues to age.
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