If you have a parent or other loved one residing in a nursing home, you may already be vigilant to changes in mood, behavior, or physical condition that could indicate physical or mental abuse. However, another type of elder abuse -- financial abuse -- can be more hidden and sometimes even more devastating than physical mistreatment or neglect. Read on to learn more about some of the warning signs of financial abuse, as well as the steps you can take to assist your relative if you fear someone close to him or her has committed fraud.
Why are seniors particular targets for this type of abuse?
Science has found that as people age, their ability to decipher the differences between a legitimate offer and a scam offer significantly diminishes. If you've ever received an email rife with misspellings and other errors, you may have wondered why these scam artists don't put more effort into their phishing attempts. However, these errors are often purposeful -- by weeding out the individuals who can instantly recognize a problem with the email's content, the scam artist can ensure that those who respond can likely be "bled" for a substantial amount of money before they begin asking questions or raising concerns. There are a number of other factors that can also render seniors more vulnerable to charlatans or scam artists.
What are some red flags that could indicate financial abuse?
Because financial abuse may often be perpetrated by a nursing home employee, it's important to have an accurate picture of your relative's daily life. If a worker or another individual seems reluctant to allow you to be alone with your relative (for example, by lingering in the room or insisting that it is time for your relative to eat or rest), this may be due to their fear that your relative will mention providing this person with money.
You'll also want to ensure that your relative is still receiving the same quality of care. The person committing abuse may be withholding food or clothing changes from your relative in exchange for money or financial information. If you notice a sudden decrease in the quality of care being provided, or if your relative seems fearful of his or her surroundings, this could be an indication of ongoing abuse.
What should you do if you fear your relative is being financially abused?
If you or other family members have witnessed red flags, you may want to consult an attorney who specializes in laws governing seniors. This attorney will be able to conduct a preliminary investigation and pull financial records to determine the status of your relative's funds. In many cases, the scam artist will be relatively easily identified, and your relative (or you, if you're appointed legal guardian) can file a civil lawsuit against this person to recover any funds. Your county's district attorney may also opt to prosecute this person for fraud, which could end in a jail or prison sentence
Contact a legal office like Rosenmeier Law Office to learn more about family law.