“Life is half spent before we know what it is.” —George Herbert, 1651
Though the vast majority of senior caregivers are reputable and honest, occasionally someone comes along who takes advantage of an elderly client.
According to Sally Hurme, coordinator of AARP’s Financial Protection Outreach & Service, there are at least 5 million financial abuse victims each year in the U.S., and only one in 25 of them are reported to authorities.
“Studies point to specific cracks in victims’ defenses against exploitation: trust, financial niavete, cognitive impairments, social isolation, dependency, fear, and embarrassment.”
Hurme goes on to explain that elder financial abuse is unique because “there is a very real chance that the victim has no idea that she has been … victimized. The victim may have no awareness that anything is amiss with his finances.”
There are many ways of combating and preventing financial abuse of elders, one of which is using a reputable caregiving agency. Many of these agencies not only screen their employees, but also do background checks to ensure the safety and security of their elderly clients.
Some such agencies have also begun a gift card program. Gift cards are a convenient and easily accessible solution to preventing certain financial abuses. Agencies issue the gift card to the caregiver, who can then buy groceries and other essentials for their clients. Since the gift card is purchased through a bank, the agency can track purchases online and know when transactions take place. All risk, which is limited to the amount of money put into the gift card, is borne entirely by the agency. The caregiver never needs to use the senior’s cash or credit cards as all purchases must be made using the gift card. Receipts are kept and purchases are then billed to the client with their regular invoice.
Though financial abuse of elders is a reality, measures can be taken to minimize the damages and the possibility of elderly clients being victimized.
As Hurme points out, “Even though there are no broken bones, the effect is devastating financially and emotionally.”
Being aware, taking steps to prevent theft, and utilizing reputable In-Home Care Agencies are the first defenses against elder financial abuse.