Abuse of the Elderly
Published Dec 17, 2018
HOW DO WE PREPARE OUR FINANCES FOR OLD AGE? AND, HOW DO WE PROTECT THE PEOPLE WE LOVE FROM SCAMS AND THEFT?
It’s estimated that between 2 and 14 percent of the elderly population in Australia experience financial abuse in any given year. This amounts to thousands of elderly people being illegally and unfairly treated and results in billions of dollars in theft.
While laws are currently being addressed, the reality is that elderly people often suffer from cognitive impairment resulting in a reduced capacity to monitor their finances. Because of this, many examples of financial abuse are simply never noticed or reported.
Financial abuse of the elderly can include miss-use of funds, being subject to fraud and scams, pressure and intimidation, theft, abuse of power of attorney, or a carer failing to provide promised attention.
So, how do we prepare our finances for old age? And, how do we protect the people we love from scams and theft?
Forsyths Aged Care Financial Specialist, Julie Sherwood says the key is to plan ahead.
‘So often I see clients who plan for end of life with a will, however they don’t plan for the possibility of a decline in their mental or physical health.
‘It’s important to have a strategy around who will take care of the decisions around finance, health and property should dementia or other illnesses arise.
‘A support network is very important for older people. I encourage clients to check in with their accountant, financial adviser or a trusted family member before making any large financial transactions. Better to check the authenticity of a transaction before it takes place than experiencing problems afterwards.
‘It’s important for this support network to communicate any decline or concern they see in their client or loved one. This ensures the right steps can be taken to protect them from financial or other abuse’, she says.
There are strategies that can be taken on a day to day level that reduce risk for the elderly:
- a bank can provide a limit on transactions and block certain types of payments
- the Australian Do Not Call register can eliminate unwanted marketing calls to the elderly that can cause confusion
- payment methods can be minimised to the safest options for example arrange for bills to be paid by a trusted party or by direct debit rather than an elderly person relying upon cheques and credit cards
- establish a plan for a Power of Attorney for when an elderly person needs greater care. Ensure this person is trustworthy and has the best interest of the relative or client in mind.
Julie Sherwood is a Financial Adviser who specialises in working with older people, families and their support network to help older people age well. She believes that good planning is the greatest protection against financial abuse.