Senior safety is a growing concern. You may have heard the term “Elder Abuse”- but seniors don’t like being called “Elderly”, and the term “Abuse” can sometimes bring about denial and feelings of shame. And that feeling of shame and embarrassment are two of the biggest reasons seniors do not report abuse when it happens. So rather than calling it 'Elder Abuse', here we refer to the topic as Senior Safety, or Senior Protection.
Financial vulnerability and exploitation takes many forms- it’s the wrongful taking, withholding, appropriation, or use of a vulnerable adults money, real property, or personal property.
One on the most growing concerns is the financial
exploitation that is occurring at an increasing rate. Hawaii News Now reported
a 300% increase in crime against seniors in Hawaii in just this past decade.
Robo-Callers are Targeting Seniors!
Does your loved one still have the ability or mental capacity to make sound financial decisions? Will she be able to figure out a scammer when they call? When a senior's cognition is declining, one of the abilities they start to lose is the ability of determining "trustworthiness" (one of the roles of the insular cortex). Deciding to trust a stranger, caregiver, or family member requires multiple brain regions working together to reach the decision of "trustworthy." When brain function starts declining, so too does this ability, and the default for seniors who cannot effectively process the information- the brain skips the processing and the default for most seniors is set to 'trustworthy'. Why? Most likely because many seniors have good morals, may be religious, like to help people, and may not be aware of these types of crimes.
Robo-callers as you well know are on the constant daily prowl. Is the woman above giving her credit card information to a "worthy cause" - or just another scamming thief?
Another common scam targeted at seniors is for a scammer to play on a senior's fear, and pose as a representative of the Social Security Administration requesting the senior to give their personal information or their benefits will be cut. Once the scammer has your personal information the carnage begins! And lets be clear- government agencies like social Security and the IRS won't call you out of the blue seeking your personal information.
But- it isn't just strangers exploiting seniors-
Family members are responsible for approximately half of the financial crimes against seniors. Sometimes the truth is ugly. I quit counting long ago the number of cases I have seen where a family member would bring in a parent for assessment and tell me that another family member was taking advantage of them.
And it's not just their money, but their medications as well! Many seniors live with chronic pain and have access to opioid pain medications. These medications have high street value and family members have been known to steal their medication for themselves (if they are an addict), or to sell on the street for money.
Here at the Maui Memory Clinic we evaluate financial capacity and risk of financial vulnerability, and write up our findings in a neuropsychological report. We can determine an individual’s risk level (mild, moderate, or high) of financial vulnerability. With this information families can decide if they need to take steps to assist with their loved one’s finances.
If risk is high you may want to consider legal action such as a Power of Attorney or Guardianship. A neuropsychological report outlining an individual's cognitive strengths and weakness and financial capacity (or lack thereof) will provide you with the evidence needed to proceed with legal action.
And if you need a financial capacity evaluation- make sure to let us know up front so we can include specific tests in the neuropsychological test battery.
Dr. Thomas Harding Neuropsychologist Neuroscientist, Author & Founder
Bringing You Better Brain Health!