Elder Financial Exploitation During COVID-19
Protecting the health and well-being of elderly Americans has been a priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but a related problem has not received as much attention in the headlines — elder financial exploitation. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry covered this topic in a January 2021 article, which reported on the results of a survey of almost 900 older individuals who were sheltering at home. According to the data, the prevalence of elder financial abuse was 21.3% – around one in five. In contrast, pre-pandemic figures indicated that such misconduct affected just one in ten older people.
If you believe an elderly loved one is a victim of financial abuse, it is important to take action immediately. There are civil remedies for holding responsible parties accountable for their misconduct. You can count on a Michigan elder law attorney for help, but some basic information may be helpful.
How COVID-19 Exacerbates Financial Exploitation
The central theme behind financial abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic is social isolation, since guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus keep elderly individuals physically distant from friends and family. This is especially true for older adults sheltering in place at home, who cannot experience the benefits of community in an assisted living facility. Plus, in the home environment, the elderly are more vulnerable to financial exploitation from those they know and from complete strangers – who may also be “new friends” after becoming acquainted with the victim.
Spot the Signs of Elder Abuse
It can be challenging to protect an elderly loved one from financial abuse in any scenario, but COVID-19 exacerbates the problem. Best practices should include frequent and consistent communication by phone and video, whenever possible. By staying in touch, you are more likely to detect the signs of exploitation, such as:
- Changes to estate planning documents;
- Odd spending habits or purchases;
- Unusual or unexplained ATM withdrawals;
- Bills going unpaid;
- New accounts being opened up in the elderly person’s name;
- Credit cards arriving by mail;
- Adding names to real estate, bank accounts, or retirement accounts;
- Personal items missing from your loved one’s home; and
- Many other suspicious activities.
You may be relieved to know that there are both legal and equitable remedies available for financial exploitation. On behalf of a loved one – or to assist an elderly person in seeking relief – you can file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation. Plus, you can also obtain an injunction to revoke legal documents, order an abuser to cease misconduct, and/or evict someone from the person’s residence.
Contact the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law to Discuss Financial Exploitation
If you believe that an elderly loved one has been subjected to financial or other types of abuse, it is critical to act quickly to protect his or her interests. Our team at Nawrocki Center for Elder Law can assist with your legal options, so please call 810-893-5277 or go online to schedule a consultation. After we review your circumstances, we can advise you on next steps.