Friday, December 23, 2011

Phila Inquirer Reports on Elder Abuse

On December 23, 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer posted an article, Financial abuse of the elderly is approaching a crisis, researcher says, by Chris Mondics, that reports the opinion of Mark Lachs, a geriatrician and social scientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, who believes "an epidemic of thefts and fraud targeting the elderly -- by lawyers, financial advisers, family members, and others -- is fast becoming a national crisis."
Their work suggests that millions are victimized every year. But only a fraction of the incidents ever comes to the attention of authorities.

"There are millions and millions of people who are affected, and it is enormous in its scope; you go to a dinner, and everyone has a . . . story," Lachs says. "If this were a disease, we would probably say it is an epidemic."
The article identifies and explains the immediate implications -- personal and communal -- of financial elder abuse:
Projected on a national stage, the results suggest that at least 2.5 million people over 60 are victimized by family members, financial advisers, scammers, and others. Even Lachs' tally was likely an undercount because elderly people suffering from severe mental decline, a group at high risk for being preyed upon, were not polled.
The resources lost in those schemes will not be passed down to heirs or donated to charities. Nor can the assets pay for nursing-home care. Elderly victims who lose their savings often turn to Medicaid, the government health-care program. * * *
The article expands those implications, however, to include poorer health and reduced life expectancy for victims.
To this day, their work remains the only epidemiological research quantifying the effect of financial exploitation, neglect, and physical abuse on elderly survival rates. Adjusting the results for chronic diseases, race, income, marital status, and the quality and strength of social networks, the key finding was that abused members of the study group died at three times the rates of those who had not been mistreated.

In the dry and technical language epidemiologists favor, the group reported that "the need for adult protective service generally and elder mistreatment specifically were independent predictors of early death."

The study offered no medical explanation for why abuse victims might die sooner than others; it was not designed to do so. But Lachs finds the answers self-evident.

Apart from the chance that abuse victims might succumb to the effects of their injuries, he sees many nuanced linkages between exploitation, abuse, and failing health. * * *
See: Study: Mortality rate of elderly abuse victims is 3 times higher. 

The Inquirer compiles its recent elder abuse reporting on a "project page" entitled Financial Fraud: A Big Risk for the Elderly.   

It offers links to helpful, reputable resources advocating for victims and against perpetrators of elder abuse, particularly affecting finances.
Pennsylvania and its eastern counties:
New Jersey and its Philadelphia-area counties:
Another useful linked resources is the Clinician's Pocket Guide ("Preventing Elder Investment Fraud:  Assessing for Vulnerability to Financial Exploitation", 80 sheets), created through Baylor College of Medicine's Huffington Center on Aging.