The Realities of Elder Financial Abuse

The United Nations (UN) has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The day aims to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders. As a not-for-profit, community based agency offering therapeutic counselling and credit counselling, Family Service PEI (FSPEI) has come in direct contact with numerous seniors who are victims of abuse. “Financial abuse is the most reported form of elder abuse,” explains Denise Lockhart, Executive Director of FSPEI. “It is happening all around us, and as a society we need to recognize the warning signs and know where to go for help.”

Financial abuse can involve illegally or improperly using a person’s money, assets, or property without the person’s permission or knowledge. It is often a form of theft or fraud. Examples of financial abuse include: pressuring for money, goods or property; using property or money without the person’s knowledge and consent; and misusing a power of attorney.

According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the elderly are an attractive target. Persons over the age of 50 control over 70% of the nation’s wealth and often do not realize the value of their assets (particularly homes). Additionally, the elderly are viewed as less likely to take action against their abusers as a result of illness or embarrassment, and culprits assume that frail victims will not survive long enough to follow through on legal interventions.

“About 80% of abuse or neglect of older adults is hidden or goes undetected. This is simply not acceptable and we need the community at large to make a personal effort to take action,” says Lockhart.

FSPEI is currently in the process of developing a webinar for all Credit Counselling Canada members on the topic of elder financial abuse. This webinar will reach Credit Counsellors across the country, providing them with the necessary skills and tools to detect and report elder abuse. “We are always happy to educate people on elder financial abuse, and we encourage community groups to reach out to us should they need more information.”

Additional information on elder abuse can be found by calling: Adult Protection 368-6717, Island Help Line 1-800-218-2885, Anderson House 1-800-240-9894, PEI Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Centre 1-800-289-5656, Victim Services 368-4582 and PEI Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-TIPS. Or by visiting www.stopfamilyviolence.pe.ca/seniors

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For more information on this subject, or to schedule an interview, please contact Denise Lockhart – Executive Director, Family Service PEI at 902-892-2441, 902-436-9171 or via email: director@familyservice.pe.ca