Senior Citizens at Risk of Financial Abuse, Most
Often by Family Members
Financial exploitation of elderly is a common and
serious problem; adult children most likely suspects
30, 2014 -Nearly one in
twenty elderly Americans is being financially exploited often by their
own family members. This burgeoning public health crisis especially
affects poor and black people. It merits the scrutiny of clinicians,
policy makers, researchers, and any citizen who cares about the dignity
and well-being of older Americans, says Dr. Janey Peterson of Weill
Cornell Medical College.
She led one of the largest American studies ever on
elder abuse, the findings of which appear in the Journal of General
With old age often also comes social isolation and
mental decline, which makes the elderly uniquely susceptible to being
abused by others in different ways. According to Peterson, even though
financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse, it is
also the aspect that has been least studied.
Her team therefore set out to get a clearer picture
about its prevalence, the forms it takes and the factors that influence
it. To do so, they telephonically interviewed 4,156 New York State
residents 60 years of age or older.
In all, 2.7 percent of these senors interviewed
admitted that they had been financially exploited in one way or another
during the previous year, while an even more alarming 4.7 percent
reported that it happened to them over the course of their later
Having their money or property stolen or
misappropriated happened to around 78 percent of respondents in cases
that occurred in the past year, 42 percent said it happened 2 to 10
times, and 9 percent said it happened more than 10 times.
Some people were forced or misled into surrendering
rights or property or signing or changing a legal document. Some were
impersonated to obtain property or services. Others had to carry the
cost of all domestic expenses without the contributions of other
household members. A small group of respondents reported being destitute
and not receiving assistance from family or friends.
The most common perpetrator was not an outsider,
but most often a family member (57.9 percent of the time) and the
adult children at that. This is followed by friends and neighbors (16.9
percent) or a paid home aid (14.9 percent).
The researchers' analyses convey a consistent
narrative: Financial exploitation disproportionately affects older black
adults, those surviving below the poverty line and elderly people living
in large households without their spouses.
Peterson's team was also not surprised to find that
elderly adults who struggle to maintain an independent lifestyle are
often exploited. Requiring assistance with shopping and meal preparation
often gives potential perpetrators access to their finances.
"Financial exploitation of older adults is a common
and serious problem, and especially happens to elders from groups
traditionally considered to be economically, medically and
socio-demographically vulnerable," says Peterson.
"In addition to robbing older adults of resources,
dignity, and quality of life, it is likely costing our society dearly in
the form of increased entitlement encumbrances, health care, and other
The Journal of General Internal Medicine is
the official journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine and is
published by Springer.
Nursing Home Abuse,
Medical Malpractice -
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