In my career as an estate planning and elder law attorney, I have encountered numerous occasions where it was very clear to me that my client, the senior citizen, was being taken advantage of by other individuals.
Yes, there have certainly been the cases where scammers have convinced clients to wire money to an account.
And yes, there have been scammers who hacked into someone’s banking information and took money.
But the more emotional and heart wrenching situations are the ones where it is a family member who takes advantage. Exploitation of an individual can take several forms; it does not necessarily have to only be financial, but could also be physical, verbal, emotional and other forms.
However, the one that I see the most in my practice is financial, probably because we are an elder law firm and assist with financial powers of attorney, and our clients will often call us if they believe that they are a victim.
Unfortunately, lots of seniors don’t want to move forward because it means that they will have to pursue a matter against a family member and they rarely want to do that. Also, many are embarrassed because they feel that they should have seen it or should have known better and they are embarrassed to report it. As a professional who works in the senior community, I take my role very seriously and believe that all of us as citizens have a role in protecting our seniors against any of these exploitations – particularly against family exploitation.
In all of my workshops and professional presentations, I encourage everyone to be diligent and pay attention to signs of potential exploitation of a senior.
For example, if somebody is no longer coming out in public or a family member is always there and will not allow the person to be alone with other people, or a family member tends to speak for the elderly individual, these are all signs and need to be reported.
In Pennsylvania, every county has local Area Agency on Aging, all of which have protective services divisions. In York and Lancaster Counties, where I primarily practice, we are fortunate to have dedicated individuals who take their jobs very seriously.
You can make an anonymous tip to the protective services division and they will investigate the matter and make sure that the elderly person is protected.
I cannot underestimate the value that the agency provides.
Also, if there is any question in your mind about abuse, report it to the police, who also can investigate and handle such situations. We all need to be vigilant and to step in and help when we see a need.
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