To support World Elder Abuse Awareness Day which occurred June 15, BFSFCU is committed to promoting awareness about Elder Abuse, specifically the financial exploitation that may occur to the elderly, and ways to prevent it or intervene on behalf of a victim.
Elder abuse is the intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult (typically defined as age 60 or older).
It is hard to believe that anyone would want to deliberately harm an elderly person, but Elder Abuse and exploitation is a world-wide problem. According to the US Justice Department, “at least 10% of adults age 65 and older will experience some form of elder abuse in a given year”. Elder Abuse can encompass family members taking advantage of an elderly relative or grandparent or scammers targeting the elderly population because of their age.
Types of neglect and abuse include physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, caregiver neglect and financial exploitation and fraud. Financial exploitation is the most common form of abuse.
Generally speaking, elderly people have amassed more wealth than their younger counterparts. They are also susceptible to cognitive decline. This could be due to illness or disease, or just typical aging. Financial impairment is often one of the first pieces that elders may struggle to keep up with as they age. Fraudsters use elders unfamiliarity with new payment methods, systems, and topics to exploit them and to confuse them. Another reason why this happens is an elder’s propensity to trust. The elderly demographic tends to be more trusting of others as they were raised in a different time. It can make it hard for them to distinguish those who want to help from others that are malicious. Lastly, many elderly people live alone and may be homebound or isolated and fraudsters prey on that to develop a social connection to build trust.
The elder needs advocates to recognize when abuse or exploitation may be happening. The elderly person may not be in a place physically or mentally to express what is happening to them. This could be due to an illness, or due to the fact that the person harming them may be a close relative or caregiver. The elderly person may fear the repercussions if they rely on others for constant care or their daily needs.
Seniors (and any vulnerable adults) deserve to feel safe and protected. It is important to be aware of what elder abuse is so that if you see something, say something. It reminds us to be compassionate to others and to speak up if we see or feel that something is not right.
Keep an eye out! Do you have an elderly relative, friend, or neighbor that you are close to or acquainted with? Check in on them! This is especially true when the elderly person has gone through a major change such as losing a spouse or partner and suddenly living alone, a recent retirement, or experiencing an illness, disease, or loss of independence. The best way to prevent abuse is to visit, call, and to be a resource and advocate to those in the elderly demographic. By keeping the elder engaged with friends, neighbors, and their communities, we can prevent potential abuse or isolation.
For a list of the many types of scams and how they function, visit our website here: Scams (bfsfcu.org)
To learn more about elder abuse, see the US Department of Justice website: About Elder Abuse | EJI | Department of Justice
To report suspected elder abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services.