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.The article identifies and explains the immediate implications -- personal and communal -- of financial elder abuse:
"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."
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 article expands those implications, however, to include poorer health and reduced life expectancy for victims.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. * * *
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.See: Study: Mortality rate of elderly abuse victims is 3 times higher.
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. * * *
The Inquirer compiles its recent elder abuse reporting on a "project page" entitled Financial Fraud: A Big Risk for the Elderly.
Pennsylvania and its eastern counties:
- The Pennsylvania Department of Aging runs a 24-hour hotline where instances of abuse and neglect can be reported: 800-490-8505.
- The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging investigates allegations of abuse. Investigators at PCA's protective services unit can be reached 24 hours a day at 215-765-9040.
- The SeniorLaw Center: A nongovernmental agency in Center City, the center focuses on providing seniors with legal representation on issues ranging from housing to concerns about financial exploitation and fraudulent business practices. Contact 877-727-7529.
- Bucks County (PA) Area Agency on Aging: 30 E. Oakland Ave., Doylestown 18901. Phone: 215-348-0510.
- The Chester County (PA) Department of Aging Services, Government Services Center, 601 Westtown Rd., Suite 320, Box 2747, West Chester 19380-0990; 610-344-6350.
- The Delaware County (PA) Office of Services for the Aging, 206 Eddystone Ave., Second Floor, Eddystone 19022-1594. Protective services can be reached at 610-490-1300.
- The Montgomery County (PA) Office of Aging and Adult Services operates an elder abuse hotline: 1-800-734-2020 from its central office at Central Office at 1430 DeKalb Pike, Box 311 Norristown 19404-0311.
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.
- The New Jersey Division of Aging and Community Services offers help online as well as at 1-800-792-8820.
- The Burlington County (NJ) Board of Social Services/Adult Protective Services Program (main county page): Human Services facility, 795 Woodlane Rd., Mount Holly 08060; 609-261-1000.
- The Camden County (NJ) Board of Social Services, Adult Protective Services, (main county page) 600 Market St., Camden 08102. 856-225-8178.
- The Gloucester County (NJ) Board of Social Services (main county page): 400 Hollydell Dr., Sewell 08080; 856-582-9200.