World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

An estimated 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of abuse or mistreatment. WEAAD was created in 2006 to promote a better understanding of elder abuse and educate individuals on how to identify, address, and prevent abuse in the future.

Elder abuse can take many different forms – physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial exploitation, or neglect.

There are various warning signs that can help individuals identify when an elderly loved one is being abuse – the elder begins to have trouble sleeping, seems depressed, loses weight rapidly, acts agitated or becomes violent, becomes withdrawn, stops taking part in activities they previously enjoyed, has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars,  looks messy or has unwashed hair or clothes, displays signs of trauma, or changes their banking or spending patterns. Knowing the signs can lead to a conversation about concerns over what is happening and can help prevent further abuse or mistreatment.

Caregivers and loved ones can also help prevent elder abuse by being able to identify potential scams. The National Council on Aging assembles a list each year of the “Top Ten Scams Targeting Seniors.”[1] This includes Medicare/health insurance scams, funeral scams, internet fraud, telemarketers, IRS scams, investment schemes and the grandparent scam, where an impostor calls pretending to be a grandchild in need of quick financial help.

Some estate planning tools can also help prevent elders from being taken advantage of. Elders with a personalized plan would be able to choose to stay in control of their assets until they are no longer able to. They would choose who makes the determination that they are no longer able to handle those responsibilities, either financial or otherwise. And they would choose who steps in as the Power of Attorney to assume control of the assets and provide more financial monitoring than the elder may have been capable of providing. This could deter a scammer from putting themselves in a position to immediately take control of the elder’s assets and transfer everything to themselves. Having an estate plan is an extra layer of defense against individuals abusing, mistreating or exploiting elders.