Elder financial abuse is a crime that exploits the most vulnerable in our communities - our senior citizens - and it's only set to grow worse in the coming years. America's senior population is rising, and so is the challenge of elder abuse.
A recent speech on elder financial abuse by an expert makes the gravity of this challenge all too clear. Kathleen Quinn, the executive director of the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), addressed financial advisors from across the country at the prominent Senior Investors Forum in New York City, calling on them to protect their elderly clients from financial predators. While elder abuse is an insidious and expanding phenomenon, Quinn noted that the resources to prevent it are limited.
To demonstrate the tough fight we're in for, she then provided the audience the following statistics:
- One in ten seniors - that comes out to 5 million people every year - are victims of elder abuse and neglect. Quinn added that this adds up to more than the combined total of abused children (1.25 million) and battered women (2.3 million). We're witnessing a silent epidemic of crime.
- Reporting on elder abuse is nearly non-existent, with only one in 24 cases ever reaching the authorities. Financial elder abuse is even less likely to be reported, with only one in 44 cases coming to the attention of police or adult protective services.
- The likelihood that victims of elder abuse will die within a few years is three times greater than that with other senior citizens. Victims are also four times more likely to be put into a nursing home or care facility.
- Elder abuse is incredibly costly to all involved - the victims, their families, financial institutions, and taxpayers. The damage inflicted by elder financial abuse everywhere is in the multiple billions (according to recent research, anywhere from $3 billion to $36 billion).
- There is a lack of federal funding in the fight against elder abuse. $4 million out of a requested $25 million was appropriated by Congress for Adult Protective Services in 2015. Such funding is crucial for cash-strapped state and local adult protective services agencies, which unfortunately often can do little without financial backing from the federal level.
- According to the data of a NAPSA 2012 survey, elder abuse cases skyrocketed 87%. Yet at the same time, half of the states cut spending to counter this ever-expanding crime wave.
Quinn's statistics cannot but be cause for alarm to American seniors and their loved ones. Whether we're family, financial professionals, caregivers, or attorneys, increased vigilance is necessary to prevent and stop elder financial abuse. Let's get to work.