A common but often unrecognized danger to senior citizens and their well-being is the pernicious phenomenon of elder financial abuse. Here at Hackard Law, we've observed such wrongdoing over years of managing estate litigation. Depositions over a contested will or trust can suddenly reveal new details pointing to the exploitation of a senior for financial gain by one of the parties in the case.
It's unfortunate but true that elder financial abuse within families is more frequent than most of us would like to admit, as a new study conducted by Allianz Insurance demonstrates. As part of its Safeguard Our Seniors program, Allianz has released research drawn from 2,000 American adults both of retirement age (65 +) and under (40-64). What the insurance company found shows a continuing disconnect between the perceptions and realities of elder financial abuse. When polled, most respondents overwhelmingly said that financial exploitation was most likely to be perpetrated against seniors through telemarketing, internet, and mail scams.
While fraud committed by a stranger does compose a substantial amount of cases (22%), even more widespread is elder financial abuse within families: when a relative/caretaker misappropriates a senior's funds or property through various methods of manipulation. It was established that a full 52% of these crimes came from within families - other studies place the percentage as high as 90%. Data collected and analyzed from Allianz and other research can help us acknowledge a significant blind spot in elder financial abuse cases. It may be we don't want to recognize the harsh reality that the danger of exploitation comes primarily from within our own households; in fact, around half or more of seniors don't report this type of wrongdoing.
Yet with a population over retirement age projected to be at 20% by 2030 and cognitive impairments like Alzheimer's and dementia on the rise, elder abuse is bound to increase as well. And unless we fundamentally re-examine the way our families live and how we treat our elders, it's a problem we will all face well into the future.