Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Broken Trust" Elder Abuse Study Released

In March, 2009, a new study on elder abuse prevention, entitled "Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances" (PDF, 40 pages), was issued by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnical Institute & State University.

Release of the Report was announced in a Press Release dated March 17, 2009, entitled Financial Abuse Costs Elders More Than $2.6 Billion Annually, According to MetLife Mature Market Institute Study, Though Four in Five Cases Are Not Reported posted by BusinessWire and other services.

According to its Executive Summary, the Report "provides a comprehensive understanding about the extent and implications of elder financial abuse in all its various manifestations — personal, institutional, and societal."

Through an extensive review of available information on elder abuse, this research enhances the understanding of the complexities surrounding elder financial abuse, the current magnitude of the issue, reasons why this issue is likely to grow, and some recommendations of ways to potentially mitigate this complex and devastating crime.

While difficult to present any comprehensive or consensus definition of elder financial abuse, this study considers elder financial abuse as “the unauthorized use or illegal taking of funds or property of people aged 60 and older.”

It is perpetrated by those who gain, and then violate, the trust of an older person.

They can be as close as a family member, neighbor, or friend, or as distant as an invisible voice on the telephone or an e-mail from the other side of the globe. * * *
These are the key findings of the Report:
• While underreported, the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.6 billion dollars

• Elders’ vulnerabilities and larger net worth make them a prime target for financial abuse

• The increased aging of the population, social changes, and technology advances will lead to a dramatic increase in the opportunity for a growing level of elder financial abuse

• The perpetrators of elder financial abuse are typically not strangers and most are people who have gained the trust of the older individual, including business and service professionals and family members

• The victims of elder financial abuse come from all walks of life, and this type of abuse affects elders regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.
How widespread is financial elder abuse?
Elder financial abuse is commonly linked with other forms of abuse and neglect and threatens the health, dignity, and economic security of millions of older Americans.

It is estimated to cost Americans tens of billions of dollars annually in health care, social services, investigative and legal costs, and lost income and assets.

Elder financial abuse is a problem in every community and among all social strata. It is underrecognized, underreported, and underprosecuted. * * *
From what source data were these key points and overview derived? News articles.

The methodology that analyzed the elements reported in articles and accounts is distinctive for compiling such a report -- one that could only have been done in an era of the Internet and search engines.

From April through June 2008, leading researchers from the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA), Dr. Pamela Teaster, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), and Dr. Karen Roberto, reviewed all Newsfeed articles from the Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), collected by the National Association of Adult Protective Services (NAPSA), which tracks media reports daily of elder abuse through Google and Yahoo Alerts (a process that scans billions of Web pages).

This was the first large-scale analysis using this untapped data resource on elder financial abuse on a national basis. * * *
The Table of Contents indicates the scope of the well-written Report:
Major Findings
  • What Is Elder Financial Abuse?
  • Who Experiences Elder Financial Abuse?
  • Aging Women: Prime Targets for Elder Financial Abuse
  • Aging Men: From “Sweetheart” to Victim
  • Elder Financial Abuse — An Equal Opportunity Crime Against Elders
Prevalence of Elder Financial Abuse
  • The Perpetrators of Elder Financial Abuse
  • Elder Financial Abuse by Family Members
  • Businesses as Perpetrators of Elder Financial Abuse
  • Elder Financial Abuse by Acquaintances and Strangers
Growing Problem of Elder Financial Abuse
Aging and Susceptibility to Elder Financial Abuse
  • Balancing Autonomy and Protection: Understanding the Complexities of Elder Financial Abuse
  • The Tip of the Iceberg: Why Victims Do Not Report
Identifying the Problem: Leading Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Lasting Impact of Elder Financial Abuse

Addressing Elder Financial Abuse
  • Industry and Professional Efforts
  • Governmental Efforts
  • States Respond to Elder Financial Abuse
  • Examples of Promising Local Practices
Preventing Elder Financial Abuse
The Report cites fifty-one sources, and provides excellent bullet points of practical advice in identifying and addressing financial elder abuse.

It concludes with recommendations for preventing financial elder abuse:
  1. Education about one’s rights and about the various types of consumer fraud and scams;
  2. Financial conservatorship and/or power of attorney for those who are vulnerable;
  3. Assignment of responsibility to a trusted outside person, if children are a concern;
  4. Additional media attention for this issue;
  5. Training financial professionals to properly assist older customers;
  6. Assistance from social services, medical/nursing personnel, government agencies;
  7. Reporting suspected cases of financial abuse to local authorities.
This easily-read Report adds a new methodology to the study of financial elder abuse. It confirms many subjective impressions and objective findings about the current extent -- and likely expansion -- of this age-related oppression, and then offers strategies to combat it.
With good reason, financial elder abuse has been characterized by some experts as “the crime of the 21st Century.”

–J.F. Wasik, Journalist, quoted in the Broken Trust report (2009)