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Maybe this is how life is in old age: to work hard all your life just to have your pockets constantly emptied with one excuse or another from your own child. At least she wasn’t having it as badly as other elderly parents who were being beaten or slapped by their own children! —Grandma Akin tells her first daughter, Joy, over the phone. Joy has asked her to move in with her family for security. Grandma Akin refused, reminding her that John is her last child and he still takes care of her. His presence is good enough to drive away the emptiness of her apartment.

 “…Joy, I have no idea what to do. I love my children very much and would do anything for you all, but John has been very difficult. I am very unhappy that he takes from me whenever I ask him to withdraw money from the machine or I find my ATM card missing, but when I try to question him he either says he needs it or that it’s for an insurance scheme and he would pay me back. I love him but I don’t think it’s true…”

“Mama,” her daughter says faintly, “ John is scamming you. I think it’s time to accept that my brother has been abusing you.“

“Abusing me keh. But I’m a grown woman, how can that be?”

Is there really something like ‘Elder abuse’?

Yes, there is. If an elderly person is harmed physically, emotionally, or is misused for sexual or financial reasons, or is even neglected, that person is a victim of Elder abuse; it is real and it happens a lot more than we think.

A lot of abusers are close relatives, friends, and caregivers, who take advantage of an elderly person because he/she is vulnerable, meaning he/she is unable to defend themselves. Elderly people are also easily abused because they may need help with daily activities they find difficult to do themselves, from self-care routines to activities like walking up a flight of stairs, to buying medicine, or even feeding themselves, which they may struggle with due to age-related diseases like dementia.

It might be hard to imagine elderly people being victims of abuse, but we might find it easier to picture them being financially abused, meaning to have their money or valuable possessions wrongfully obtained.

John is not alone in the abuse of an elderly relative for financial benefits

Statistics show that financial abuse of the elderly is common and is more likely to be committed by a close relative. It can happen as identity theft, which is using a person’s personal information to steal money or commit fraud or ‘419’, internet scams, scams through text messages, and others.  

Elder abuse happens in many ways which affect the victim negatively. Here are some questions you can ask yourself if you suspect an elderly person is being abused:

  • Are they sad, more irritable, or even depressed?
  • Have they suddenly stopped doing activities they enjoy?
  • Have I noticed any change in their relationship with people or a certain person?
  • Has there been any change in their financial habits like unexplained withdrawals from their bank accounts, unexplained transfer of assets to someone, or missing financial documents?
  • Do they have unexplained wounds or other signs of physical injury?

If you answered yes to any of these, it is possible that abuse may be the case. It is advisable to sit down and have conversations with them to understand their situation. They may be unwilling to share information at first, so you might have to have repeated conversations or seek medical help from a geriatric psychologist.

What can be done to protect your elderly parents from financial or other forms of abuse?

Here are six ways of protecting your elderly parent against abuse:

  1. Avoid letting them stay alone without a network of family to regularly check on them
  2. Talk to them about elder abuse and how to recognize warning signs
  3. Keep all financial information under tight lips.
  4. Make sure that their finances are in order. If your parent has dementia or is unable to make financial decisions, ensure that an accountable family member or professional manages their finances
  5. No major financial decision should be made without trusted family members present
  6. It is advisable to that all their financial documents are safely secured and distributed regularly between trusted family members to keep track of their finances

Read more on elder abuse at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/elder-abuse-and-neglect.htm,

More on the kinds of financial elder abuse at https://medium.com/ayuda-care/how-to-protect-your-loved-one-from-financial-abuse-part-1-9a052b28a7b4

More on protective measures against financial elder abuse at https://www.aba.com/advocacy/community-programs/consumer-resources/protect-your-money/elderly-financial-abuse