Protecting our loved ones is one of our main duties in life, especially when it comes to the elderly. Protecting seniors help restrict people with cruel intentions from taking advantage of the elderly’s trusting nature, preventing elder abuse and financial abuse. But when is it too restrictive and disrespectful to a senior?
The elderly fall into the easily deceived category because they are typically fearful and concerned about protecting their own families. Sometimes they can be taken advantage of and be easy targets of financial abuse and they would not even know. Elder abuse could fall into the following categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, psychological abuse, neglect, and financial abuse.
Today, I want to talk about financial abuse that the elderly can experience, and the reasons they may fall for a scam. Perpetrators target elder who are facing isolation, loneliness, recent losses, physical or mental disabilities, and a general lack of knowledge of financial matters.
- Senior are attractive targets for financial abuse because they may be generally uneducated in the knowledge of the value of their assets (for example: their homes, bank accounts, stock, cars, etc.)
- Usually seniors follow a predictable patterns, in order to keep their life easy and simple, making them prone to elder abuse. For example, my grandma goes to the grocery store every Wednesday around 2pm, and the first week of the month, she goes to the bank to deposit her monthly checks.
- People who are physically and mentally handicapped are most likely not to take any action to fight back against perpetrators due to self consciousness or embarrassment. They do not want to show to people that they are unable to take care of themselves. For instance, there could be an overcharge for services or products, deceptive business practices but they let it go because they fear speaking up.
- Technology has given us a key to advancing our modern society. However it also a weapon perpetrators use for elder abuse. Due to the advance of technology some elderly people do not want to learn or are incapable of doing so, which leads them to ask people for help. These “helpers” could take advantage of the senior and lead to financial abuse. For example, water, gas, and house payments are usually made online these days and sometime these elderly have no close family member to help them navigate the internet, which leads them to ask strangers.
Financial abuse signs include:
- Unpaid bills: utilities, house payment, car payment, credit cards
- High amount of withdrawals, random withdrawals
- Canceled bank accounts
- Sudden random individuals that pop up in their lives
- Missing property or belongings
- Suspicious documents about financials concerns
- Unplanned financial arrangements and costs that pop up last minute
Due to the vicious crime against elderly, I know that loved ones would want to try and protect them from the harms from the cruelty of people. However sometimes, protecting seniors from abuse can lead us to becoming too overprotective, especially when the protector is someone who can be overbearing.
I know from own personal experiences, I would not want anyone to hurt my grandma. However at the same time I know I need to give her the space to live her life. For example, my grandma is generally independent, but there would be moments she would ask my mom if she made the right choices. In this example it shows my grandma is being careful and at the same time my mom is somewhat protecting my grandma from harm. However she is not being overprotective. She is there to answer the questions and to lend a helping hand.
I have learned that in other caregiving situations, the caregiver can have too much control over someone else’s life. It is not something that is good for either person and can cause lifelong psychological damage. I know that you want to protect your loved ones but it will also increase their dependence on you, and that is not necessarily a good thing. Thus, when a senior lacks freedom, it can also cause their happiness and emotional well-being to suffer. Additionally, it creates a stressful environment for the caregiver.
This is not just a problem at home. In real life, our banks can be overprotective of their elderly customers, preventing them access to their money because of perceived signs of dementia or cognitive disability. This inconvenience actually infringes on an elderly person’s freedom and access to their own money. The debate becomes, “when is it too much?” and “when we are infringing on a senior’s rights?”
The ideal ways for protecting seniors, but to give them space, are:
- Allow your love one go at their own pace, and encourage them to take control of their lives, with your help if they need it
- Do not hover over their every action
- Do not always say “no” to everything that may potentially hurt them in the long run, sometimes, even the elderly need to learn a few lessons if the impact is minimal. Just think about each situation, compromise, and strike a healthy balance
- Protect them for danger but give them freedom
As I see and get more exposed to vicious scams targeted as seniors, I know I can not prevent elderly scams from happening, but I want to do my best to protect the elderly from financial abuse. At the same time I try to be aware of the boundaries of who I am protecting. I do not want to be an overbearing individual who doesn’t give space to my elderly loved one to breath and to have their space. I encourage people to just relax a little, and find ways to help out your loved ones in a way that respects their autonomy.
If you would like to learn more about how you can protect your senior loved one, please click here.
Erin Bui is the Mangus Finance Circles specialist based in Riverside, CA, focused on helping special needs and senior communities with financial education and awareness.