Kenosha, WI – As elder financial exploitation of becomes more prevalent in the United States, The Kenosha County Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) has joined the 10th Annual Home for the Holidays campaign to encourage older adults and their families to become informed about the warning signs and resources available to help prevent abuse. Research shows that as many as 5 million older adults are victims of elder abuse each year and financial exploitation costs seniors an estimated $3 billion annually.
“The holiday season is an ideal time for families to get together and discuss these issues with their older family members,” said Rebecca Dutter, Adult Protective Services Coordinator. “We strongly encourage Kenosha County families to take time to learn about the warning signs so that they can ask the right questions and take precautions to ensure that the finances of older adult family members are safe.”
Among the warning signs of potential exploitation are: financial activity that is inconsistent with past history; confusion about recent financial arrangements; unauthorized changes to key documents; a caregiver or beneficiary who refuses to use designated funds for necessary care and treatment of an older adult; and an older person who feels threatened by a caregiver, family member or another individual. “Financial exploitation is a threat to the health, safety, dignity and independence of vulnerable older adults,” said Kathy Greenlee, Administrator, Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging.
“Unfortunately, financial exploitation is often committed by a person you know and trust, which makes it even more difficult,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO, n4a. “There are steps older adults and their families can take and resources available to help identify and remedy this serious problem. To ensure your safety and the safety and security of your finances, it is critical for you to assess your financial situation on a regular basis. We are seeing more and more financial abuse across the country which is why we hope families will check in with their older relatives to be sure that their finances are in good order and in good hands.”
The campaign offers these tips:
• Get an estate plan in place. Talk with an attorney about creating a durable power of attorney for asset management; a living will; a revocable, or living, trust; and health care advance directives.
• Learn how to avoid fraud and scams at www.stopfraud.gov/protect.html.
• Consult with a trusted person before making any large purchases or investments.
• Do not provide personal information (i.e. Social Security number, credit card, ATM PIN number) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.
• If you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. Ask for certifications when appropriate.
“Financial exploitation can be prevented if people know the right questions to ask and where to turn for help,” said Mary Twomey, MSW, Co-Director, National Center on Elder Abuse. “Although it is a sensitive issue and one that can be difficult to broach, it is critical for families to address it, and there are many useful resources available to guide them through the process.”
A consumer guide, Protect Your Pocketbook: Tips to Avoid Financial Exploitation, is now available to help inform this discussion with seniors. For a free copy call the Kenosha County ADRC at 262-605-6646 or visit: http://www.n4a.org/pdf/protectyourpocketbook.pdf. Families who are concerned about financial exploitation should report the issue to the ADRC at 262-605-6646. Referrals are confidential.
Locally, The Kenosha County Aging and Disability Resource Center is creating a volunteer Fudiciary Abuse Specialty Team (FAST team), professionals with financial and legal expertise, to advise and assist its Adult Protective Services unit in addressing this issue. Persons interested in volunteering may contact Rebecca Dutter, Adult Protective Services Coordinator at 262-605-6630.