Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC

Would you recognize if someone took advantage of your loved one?

The National Adult Protective Services Association says that one out of every nine seniors reported abuse, neglect or some form of exploitation. It goes on to say that out of every 20 aging adults, one reports suffering from financial mistreatment. To make matters worse, NAPSA believes that the numbers are actually much higher since victims often don't tell anyone about their plights.

The above statements probably confirm your fears for your elderly loved one. The problem is that since many people fail to report these offenses, you may need to gain an understanding of what to look for so you can take the appropriate action if necessary.

Who takes advantage of elderly adults? Who is at risk?

Sadly, it's estimated that as high as 90% of the people who take advantage of elderly adults are people they know and trust. Family members, close friends and acquaintances make up that group. They take advantage of declining mental capacity, the need for help with day-to-day activities and isolation. Those suffering from physical maladies could also end up victims of unscrupulous people. While anyone could become a victim, most are women ranging in age from 80 to 89.

What signs should you look for when it comes to financial exploitation?

Even though the primary concern in this type of exploitation is the monetary loss, your loved one could experience other affects such as irritability, depression and withdrawal. These affects could manifest in physical ailments as well. If you fear that your loved one may be the victim of financial abuse, but you aren't sure, look for the following signs:

  • Unexpected changes to important documents such as a will
  • Unexpected changes in banking practices and account balances
  • Sudden transfer of assets to a supposedly trusted individual
  • Allowing someone to make decisions for him or her
  • Disappearance of valuables and money
  • Unexplained or unauthorized withdrawals

Noticing one or more of these patterns of behavior is only the first step. Now, you have to figure out what to do about it. First, take whatever action is necessary to stop the activities as quickly as possible to limit any further damage. Be aware that you may have to involve law enforcement officials. Even if you aren't sure anything nefarious is happening, it's better to be wrong than to do nothing and be right.

If you have the opportunity to prevent this from happening at all, take it. Proper estate planning could put certain safeguards into place to protect your loved one. You may even need to petition a Connecticut court for the right to take over decision making if your loved one's physical or mental state does not allow him or her to legally execute estate-planning documents. If the damage is already done, you may explore what legal options are available to hold the guilty party accountable.

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