Financial exploitation can happen to anyone of us, but the elderly are especially vulnerable to such mayhem. How do we prevent elder financial abuse in our communities and promote an ethic of responsibility? We must focus not only on individuals, but also on community institutions - and banks are key players in any effort to protect our seniors from wrongdoing.
Elder financial abuse is a crime that robs Americans of billions every year. According to a survey conducted by the Elder Protection Trust in 2010, around one out of five senior citizens has been or will be a victim of fraud. And still other figures don't leave room for much optimism - the National Adult Protective Services Association states that only about one in fourty-four elders will end up reporting when they've financial exploitation. With such daunting odds in the fight against elder financial abuse, where is the best point to prevent it - or stop it in its tracks - early on?
Acting to address the growing challenge of elder abuse in its population, the State of Oregon is about to create a elder abuse. If Oregon's legislature agrees to fund the position, an elder abuse resource prosecutor would act through that state's department of justice to punish perpetrators of this crime and protect some of our society's most vulnerable members - senior citizens - from further exploitation. Elder abuse is a phenomenon that goes much deeper than just wrongdoing committed in nursing homes and care facilities - indeed, the most likely abusers are actually relatives themselves. By setting up a state office with the power to prosecute and investigate elder abuse matters as well as advise local DAs on elder abuse in their jurisdictions, Oregon is showing it's ahead of the curve in confronting this crime and keeping seniors safe.
One of the major reasons why elder abuse is difficult to track is under-reporting: victims of abuse are reluctant to come forward out of fear, shame, or embarrassment. And in ethnic and immigrant communities, this factor is only magnified due to the insular culture of many such groups.
Elder abuse in nursing homes has been a phenomenon that's difficult to track, though its frequency is worrying enough to publicize steps for prevention. Indeed, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 95% of care facility residents have felt neglected or seen a fellow resident neglected, while 44% reported some type of abuse.
A nursing home or care facility should be a place where elders not only receive proper medical attention, but also live without fear of assault or theft, both qualifying as elder abuse. The simple truth is that an elder care facility must provide a safe environment for its residents. When a senior citizen - one of our loved ones - is hurt in a care facility, the institution stands accountable for the wrongdoing.