Elder, Senior and Financial Abuse and Exploitation FINRA Arbitration, Litigation and Probate Estate Attorney, Russell L. Forkey, Esq.

Extent of Elder Abuse Victimization:

We have been focusing recently or our website, www.forkeylaw.com and on this blog about various issues relating to elder, senior and retirement financial abuse and exploitation.  This post is designed to provide some statistics which reflect the growing problems in this area of senior life.

It goes without saying that financial elder and senior financial abuse and exploitation is on the rise. Financial abuse and exploitation takes on many forms. As indicated in many posts that we have made, the first line of defense, assuming that they are not committing the abuse, to help prevent and protect elders, are family members, healthcare providers, friends and professionals such as certified public accountants, financial advisors and attorneys. The time to look the other way or not to get involved is long past. The overall emotional and monetary impact of elder abuse and exploitation is devastating in ways that can’t be imagined.

The National Institute of Justice funded a 2013 report based upon research done by Shelly L. Jackson, PH.D., and Thomas L. Hafemeister, J.D., PH.D called Understanding Elder Abuse, New Directions for Developing Theories of Elder Abuse Occurring in Domestic Settings. As noted in the report, which was based on 2010 statistics, 13 percent of the population was age 65 and older, with this group expected to comprise 19.3 percent of the population by 2030. Elder abuse among this population is both a pervasive problem and a growing concern. Given that the vast majority (96.9 percent) of older Americans are residing in domestic settings, it is not surprising that the majority (89.3 percent) of elder abuse reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) occurs in domestic settings.

Within this subset, the report provided the following statistics on the prevalence of elder mistreatment victimization:

  • Eleven percent of elders reported experiencing at least one form of mistreatment – emotional, physical, sexual or potential neglect – in the past year.
  •  Past-year prevalence was 5.1 percent for emotional mistreatment, 1.6 percent for physical mistreatment, 0.6 percent for sexual mistreatment and 5.1 percent for potential neglect.
  •  Financial exploitation by a family member in the past year was reported by 5.2 percent of elders.
  •  The risk of elder mistreatment is higher for individuals with the following characteristics: low household income, unemployed or retired, reporting poor health, having experienced a prior traumatic event or reporting low levels of social support.

A section of the report focused specifically on the financial exploitation of the elderly. As we all know, financial exploitation of elders is complex and, in some instances, accompanied by other forms of elder mistreatment.

The report noted that the United States has no national reporting mechanism to track the financial exploitation of elders, but a 1998 study by the National Center on Elder Abuse, found that financial abuse accounted for about 12 percent of all elder abuse reported nationally in 1993 and 1994 and 30 percent of substantiated elder abuse reported submitted to Adult Protective Services in 1996 after excluding reports of self-neglect.

The report went on to note that a 2000 survey of the National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators conducted for the National Center on Elder Abuse found that financial exploitation comprised 13 percent of the mistreatment allegations investigated. However, many experts in the field believe that the level of elder exploitation may well exceed what has been reported to authorities and documented by researchers. A proposition with which we agree based upon the number of financial abuse cases we have been involved in.

In the report, the researchers examined two general types of financial exploitation: (a) cases where an elderly person was the victim solely of financial exploitation and (b) cases where an elderly person was the victim of both financial exploitation and neglect or physical abuse. This latter type of abuse is referred to as hybrid financial exploitation.

In arriving at their findings, the researchers examined data from all adult protective services cases in Virginia from 2005 to 2007 with victims aged 60 and older. They also conducted an in-depth assessment of 54 cases. The in-depth assessment included interviews with adult protective services caseworkers, victims, and a third party who knew the victim but was not involved in the case.

They found that the characteristics and dynamics of the two types of cases (pure financial exploitation and hybrid financial exploitation) vary depending on the type of exploitation involved.

The data revealed several differences between the two types of cases. Of the 54 cases studied in-depth, 38 were financial exploitation alone, and 16 were hybrid financial exploitation. The researchers identified two types of independence – physical and financial. Physically independent elders were able to care for themselves. They could drive, were cognitively intact and physically healthy. Financially independent elders had the financial assets to cover their needs and often owned their homes. Elderly victims who were physically and financially independent were more likely to experience pure financial exploitation.

Elderly victims experiencing hybrid financial exploitation (that is, financial exploitation along with abuse or neglect) tended to be financially independent but were physically dependent. They had significant health problems, were unable to drive and were to some degree dependent on others for assistance.

Victims of hybrid financial exploitation were more likely than victims of pure financial exploitation to have:

  • Been victimized by a relative.
  • Experienced abuse multiple times over a longer period of time (123 months vs. 32 months for victims of financial exploitation alone without neglect or abuse).
  • Suffered a negative health consequence, financial loss, a disruption in social relationships, or some combination of these as a consequence of their victimization.

Based on the larger dataset of all reported cases in Virginia, the researchers identified a number of characteristics of the 472 victims of financial exploitation. These victims:

  • Were independent. Independent elders were 66 percent more likely to experience pure financial exploitation (without accompanying neglect or abuse) than the victims who were dependent.
  • Were not experiencing dementia or confusion. Elders who were not experiencing dementia or confusion were 29 percent more likely to experience pure financial exploitation than the victims who were experiencing dementia or confusion.
  • Had abusers who were not overburdened in providing social support. Elders with abusers who perceived that they had reliable social support were 88 percent more likely to experience pure financial exploitation compared to victims with abusers with overburdened social support.

The researchers also found that the 162 victims of hybrid financial exploitation (financial exploitation plus neglect or abuse) were 81 percent more likely to experience hybrid exploitation when the abuser did not provide financial support to the victim, but the victim did provide financial support to the perpetrator.

If you are aware of issues that you believe constitute elder financial abuse and need some direction as to what you options are, please feel free to call us for your initial free consultation.

Contact Us:

With extensive courtroom, arbitration and mediation experience and an in-depth understanding of elder abuse, exploitation and securities law, our firm provides all of our clients with the personal service they deserve. Handling cases worth $25,000 or more, we represent clients throughout Florida and across the United States, as well as for foreign individuals that invested in U.S. banks or brokerage firms. Contact us to arrange your free initial consultation.

At the Fort Lauderdale Law Office of Russell L. Forkey, we represent clients throughout South and Central Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Plantation, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Delray, Boynton Beach, Hollywood, Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, Manalapan, Jupiter, Gulf Stream, Wellington, Fort Pierce, Stuart, Palm City, Jupiter, Miami, Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Heathrow, Melbourne, Palm Bay, Cocoa Beach, Vero Beach, Daytona Beach, Deland, New Smyrna Beach, Ormand Beach, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Dade County, Orange County, Seminole County, Martin County, Brevard County, Indian River County, Volusia County and Monroe County, Florida. The law office of Russell L. Forkey also represents South American, Canadian and other foreign residents that do business with U.S. financial institutions, investment advisors, brokerage and precious metal firms.