Elder Care
Jan. 10, 2017 Article

Protect Your Loved Ones As They Get Older

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As the holiday season comes to a close I am reminded that it has been almost four years since my father passed away from Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s related complications. Going through an ordeal like this can teach us a few things about ourselves as well as the darker side of others. My father was diagnosed with this cognitive disorder several years before his death. My parents met with their estate planning attorney to get the will, durable power of attorney health care, and living will updated to prepare for any changes in his mental capacity. My mom, a retired RN, was going to be his primary care giver for as long as she could physically do it. I was acting as their wealth advisor and helping to monitor their entire financial picture. We had a plan in place.  

Many months later we discovered my father had been meeting secretly with financial advisors at “free lunch” seminars at his bank. Apparently, he missed the decision making of the board room and was feeling somewhat socially isolated. In his diminished capacity, he tried to take action into his own hands based on some high-pressure sales tactics. This was a signal to us that he was showing some significant signs of decline and could no longer act financially on his own behalf. We caught this before it was problematic due to our diligence, but others are not so lucky.  

Each year hundreds of thousands of older Americans experience elder abuse at the hands of caregivers, strangers, opportunists and even their own family members. The frequency of elder abuse is pretty astounding. According to research from Allianz, 37 percent of active caregivers said the elder under their care had experienced financial abuse or exploitation with a loss and 40 percent of the caregivers said abuse occurred more than once.  

In addition, the emotional toll that it can take is often overlooked. More than a third of the victims of elder abuse experienced anger and depression while more than one-quarter experienced anxiety and guilt; one-third of care givers believed that the elder would not report the abuse because they are embarrassed or unaware.

This alarming trend is likely to continue in the years to come based on the “graying of America”. In 2014 the older population – persons 65 years or older – numbered 46.2 million. They represented 14.5% of the population. According to the Administration on Aging, there will be about 98 million older persons – more than twice the 2014 number – by 2060. 

Risk Factors for Elder Financial Abuse

  • Those with low social support structure
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s
  • Stroke 
  • Trauma
  • Need for activities of daily living (ADL) assistance
  • Isolation
  • Large households
  • Loss of spouse

Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

  • Unusual Activity and behavior
  • Unpaid bills
  • Belongings missing
  • Absence of documents
  • Bank statements no longer in the mail
  • Checks made payable to individuals
  • Increased phone call volume
  • Large cash withdrawals 
  • New contacts or friends

Through social support and education, many seniors and families are being proactive to stay in front of this issue and help prevent elder abuse. There are also professional services that are available for local and national organizations to help screen care-givers and offer social support structure. 

To take action in order to reduce the odds of experiencing elder abuse, we recommend the following action steps:

  • Plan ahead to protect assets & ensure your wishes are followed
  • Build relationships with professionals involved in your finances so they can assist in monitoring suspicious activity & review complex documents or agreements before you sign them
  • Limit use of cash in favor of checks & credit cards that leave a paper trail
  • Feel free to say “no,” keeping in mind it’s your money
  • Establish protocols – Protectionary procedures can be set up such as trusts requiring multiple signatures in order to authorize transactions
  • Have a family member review finances – at Mariner Wealth Advisors, our clients can do this utilizing eMoney which acts as a vault for important documents and allows you to review transactions on accounts

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Resources for you: National Center for Elder Abuse 

The information contained herein is not intended to be personal legal, investment or tax advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any security or engage in a particular investment strategy. Nothing herein should be relied upon as such. The views expressed are for commentary purposes only and do not take into account any individual personal, financial, or tax considerations. There is no guarantee that any claims made will come to pass.