How to Spot the Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

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Elder financial abuse is a growing concern as the population ages, with increasing numbers of elders becoming vulnerable to exploitation. This type of abuse involves the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets, often by individuals who are trusted to care for or assist them. The consequences can be devastating, not only depleting an elder’s financial resources but also causing significant emotional and psychological distress. As our Florida loved ones age, it is vital to remain vigilant and informed about the potential threats they face, ensuring they are safeguarded against those who may seek to take advantage of them.

To start protecting those you care about most, start by educating yourself to understand and recognize the signs of financial abuse. Often, the indicators of financial exploitation can be subtle and easily overlooked, especially if the elder is isolated or experiencing cognitive decline. Family members and caregivers play a key role in monitoring for unusual financial activity, changes in behavior, or discrepancies in financial documents. In our blog, during the month we celebrate World Elder Abuse Awareness Month, we will share common signs of elder financial abuse and provide practical tips on how to prevent it, empowering you to take proactive steps to protect the financial well-being of your aging parents and elder loved ones in your life.

  1. Unusual financial activity. Monitor bank accounts and credit card statements for unusual withdrawals or charges. Sudden changes in financial behavior, such as large withdrawals, frequent ATM usage, or new names on bank signature cards, can be red flags.


  1. Missing belongings or property. Pay attention to missing cash, jewelry, or other valuable items. If your loved one’s possessions are disappearing without explanation, it may indicate that someone is taking advantage of them.


  1. Changes in legal documents. Be wary of sudden changes to last will and testaments, trust agreements, powers of attorney, or other legal documents. Abusers may coerce elders into altering these documents for their benefit.


  1. Unpaid bills or lack of basic necessities. Check if bills are being paid on time. If an elder’s utilities, medical bills, or other essential expenses are neglected despite having sufficient funds, it might suggest financial exploitation.


  1. Isolation from family and friends. Notice if the elder is being isolated from family, friends, or social activities. Abusers often isolate their victims to maintain control and prevent others from noticing the exploitation.


  1. Unexplained relationships or new acquaintances. Be cautious of new friends or caregivers who appear overly interested in the elder’s finances. These individuals may be trying to gain access to their assets.


  1. Emotional or psychological changes. Observe any sudden changes in the elder’s behavior, such as anxiety, depression, or fearfulness. These changes may result from financial stress or manipulation by the abuser.


  1. Reports from the elder themself. Listen to the elder’s complaints or concerns about someone managing their finances. They might mention feeling pressured or uncomfortable about financial decisions being made.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Protecting our elderly loved ones from financial abuse requires vigilance and awareness. By staying informed and observant, we can help prevent and address financial exploitation. If you suspect elder financial abuse, it is essential to take immediate action by contacting authorities or seeking legal advice to safeguard their well-being and assets.

 The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (AFELA) is the pre-eminent organization of Florida elder law attorneys providing advocacy, education and action on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities. We encourage you to contact one of our attorneys in your area using our Find a Lawyer website for assistance.