Elder financial exploitation is one form of elder abuse that refers to the illegal or improper use of an elderly individual’s money, property or resources for personal gain. Any person, even a caregiver or family member, could attempt to manipulate an elder person who depends on them for care and assistance. Adults over the age of 65, especially those who have dementia, are at an increased risk of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
Dementia is a form of cognitive decline that clouds memory and judgment. The vulnerability that comes with cognitive decline paves the way for unscrupulous actors to take advantage, turning trust into a weapon against the very individuals it was meant to protect. It slowly and stealthily strips away the ability to safeguard your financial well-being.
Safeguarding the dignity and assets of your elderly loved one
Dementia can open the door to financial abuse. Therefore, you must take proactive steps to shield your loved one from harm. Here are some measures that individuals, families and caregivers can implement to create a strong defense against potential financial exploitation:
- Early diagnosis and planning: Encourage regular medical check-ups for early detection of dementia. Early diagnosis allows for timely estate planning, including the setting up of trusts, wills and powers of attorney while the individual is still fully capable of making informed decisions.
- Durable power of attorney: Establish a durable power of attorney for finances to appoint a trusted individual who can make financial decisions on behalf of the person with dementia if they become unable to do so themselves.
- Estate planning review: Regularly review estate plans with a qualified attorney, especially after a diagnosis of dementia. Ensure all documents are up to date and reflect the current wishes and best interests of the individual.
- Education and communication: Educate the family and caregivers about the signs of dementia and the associated risks of financial abuse. Open lines of communication can lead to early detection of suspicious activities.
- Regular monitoring: Regularly monitor bank accounts, credit reports and investment accounts for unauthorized transactions or changes.
- Legal safeguards: Consult with an estate planning or elder law attorney to discuss legal safeguards such as trusts, which can provide additional layers of protection for the individual’s assets.
Financial abuse and exploitation can have a devastating impact on those who have spent a lifetime building their legacies. By taking these steps, you can create a comprehensive shield that not only protects your loved one from elder financial abuse but also respects their autonomy and honors their life’s work.