Who can you trust? Deb hears this question over and over again in her professional practice as an elder law attorney and a fee-only, holistic financial planner. Let Deb teach you how to protect yourself and your assets from those who might not have your best interests at heart. [Editor's note: Deb no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
Last year, I was privileged to attend a training course on elder abuse with some of Colorado Springs’ finest. Under a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, 50 or so police officers, detectives, and I spent two days of intense immersion into the social crisis of elder abuse. The statistics were grim; the videos horrific. We left with an increased awareness and recognition of the tactics that abusers use to victimize those over 60 years of age. My next several blogs will convey some of what I learned.
First, what is elder abuse? In order of frequency, abuse can be neglect, financial exploitation, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. Many times, multiple modes of abuse occur simultaneously. Almost always, emotional abuse is present, although such abuse by itself may not be proscribed by your state’s criminal statutes.
Who are the victims? Seventy percent are women. All racial, religious, and socioeconomic groups are affected. Educational attainment, affluence, or social status does not insulate you from being a potential victim.
Who are the abusers? Caregivers, friends, family members, intimate partners (long term, new, or late onset), those in positions of authority—in short, anybody. In Colorado, only 10% of abuse referrals to Adult Protective Services involve strangers.
Why does abuse occur? Greed, power, and control—the motives behind most criminal actions. The elderly are particularly vulnerable, because they are more prone to loneliness, isolation, and dependence on caregivers. Elder abuse is a crime and not just an unfortunate occurrence that sometimes happens as we age.
We’ll cover the signs of the most common types of abuse in the next several postings.
By Deborah Hoskins, JD, CFP
The Wise and the Wary Blog