Financial abuse of the elderly is rapidly escalating and it is estimated that one in every six people over the age of 60 will fall victim at some point.
How are the elderly targeted?
Whilst there are many rogue traders, conmen and scammers who will prey on the elderly and vulnerable, it is an unfortunate fact that most incidences of financial abuse are carried out by those family and friends who are closest to the person. People with dementia or reduced cognitive ability are most vulnerable to financial abuse, with elderly women aged over 80 being twice as likely to experience financial abuse as their male counterparts.
Leading charity, Action Against Elder Abuse, says its helpline received reports of theft from elderly people totalling £42 million in one year alone. The majority of these reported incidences involved family members.
Undoubtedly the appointment of an Attorney could be seen by an elderly person as a sensible precaution to minimise the possibility of financial abuse. However, there are unfortunately many incidences of Attorneys perpetrating financial abuse under the authority given to them by an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney. Sometimes this is due to simply mismanaging the older person’s finances and misunderstanding their role, but on other occasions there are more sinister motivations.
What can be done to help prevent financial abuse for elderly residents?
A care provider’s role in spotting incidences of financial abuse cannot be overstated. Residential care providers will usually be the first to suspect something is amiss. For example if fees are being paid late or not at all or if funds are not being made available for the older person’s benefit. A care provider might also notice if family members are having inappropriate conversations with the older person about money.
Decisions about an elderly resident’s funds should be made in their best interests and used for their benefit, primarily to fund their care needs and everyday expenses. If this is not being made possible by an Attorney then this is a primary indicator of financial abuse and should result in an immediate safeguarding referral to the relevant Local Authority to minimise any further dissipation of the resident’s funds.
As safeguarding referrals regarding financial abuse can take significant periods of time to investigate it may also be worthwhile obtaining specialist legal advice to see what further steps can be taken to immediately protect the resident and, from a commercial perspective, to make sure the payment of that resident’s fees can continue uninterrupted. Often an urgent application to the Court of Protection can result in swift protection for the victim of abuse.
For advice on helping prevent financial abuse of elderly residents, please contact our Elderly, Care & Mental Capacity team on 0161 475 7676.