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Preventing Elder Exploitation

By Dena R. Howard, J.D.
Elder Care Manager 

All of us know this sad and recurring story: An elderly couple invest their life savings with a trusted friend or company, only to find that their “friend” has left town or the company no longer exists.  Another version of this story, and perhaps even sadder, happens when a family member who, to the outside world appears to be a saintly caregiver for their elderly loved one, in secret is actually draining the elder’s bank account.

If you are asking yourself, what can we do to stop these awful crimes, take heart!  There is a tough law in Florida that the State Attorney’s Office uses to vigorously prosecute those who prey on seniors.  Under this law, Exploitation of An Aged Adult, it is a felony for a family member, trusted friend or business to deceive an elder and use the elder’s assets for their own personal gain.  The penalties for conviction under this law are more severe than sentencing for other thefts and related felonies.

Prosecutors depend on neighbors and friends of the elderly to report suspicious events to the Elder Abuse Hotline – 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).  You can make a report anonymously.  Investigation of all reports must begin within 24 hours after the Hotline receives a call.  When the investigation is completed, the Hotline sends a report to the State Attorney’s Office where the case is evaluated for prosecution.

While the State Attorney’s Office has a good track record of successful convictions, too often the senior’s money is unrecoverable.  The best protection is preventing financial exploitation before it occurs.

How do we prevent financial exploitation?
Take away motive and opportunity!

  1. Sign a power of attorney to someone you trust before a crisis occurs.  Better yet, sign a Durable Power of Attorney.  A garden-variety power of attorney loses its “power” if you become incapacitated.  A durable power of attorney will stay in effect after you are incapacitated.  Think of it as good future planning.

  2. Arrange to have your monthly income checks direct deposited in your bank account.  “Monthly income checks” include Social Security, SSI, pension, military or widow’s benefits.

  3. Many companies like JEA, BellSouth and most credit card companies now have Debit Bill Paying services.  Instead of writing checks and mailing payments, you can have your bills automatically paid from your checking account.  Call your bank to find out how.

  4.  If you hire someone to help you at home, do a “team interview.”  Ask a friend to do the interview with you.  Check references.  Don’t keep a lot of cash in your purse or wallet and don’t “hide” cash at home.  People who steal know a lot more about where you might be hiding your money than you could even imagine.

  5. Try to avoid making hasty or immediate decisions about investments or withdrawing money from savings.  You know the saying, “If it seems like it’s too good to be true, it usually is!”  The only people who “get rich quick” by pressuring you to make a fast decision are usually the ones with the unscrupulous scheme, not the investors.  Be particularly wary of making snap decisions when coping with a crisis. 

If you suspect someone in Northeast Florida is being financially exploited, call:

State Attorney’s Office ~ (904) 630-4994

Elder Abuse Hotline ~ 1-800-96-ABUSE

Consumer Fraud Hotline ~ (904) 630-4994

Insurance Fraud ~  (904) 348-2740

Legal Aid ~ (904) 356-8371

Senior Care Managers ~  (904) 730-8831

Preventing Elder Abuse

In many cases, an abused elder is totally dependent on an abuser and is afraid to complain for fear of consequences.  There are a number of signs that you can look for that may indicate abuse or neglect:

  • Frequent unexplained injuries, i.e., cuts, black eyes, and lacerations

  • Bruises in any unusual patterns and welts

  • Burns:  may be caused by cigarettes, chemicals, ropes or anything that may cause friction against skin, i.e., restraints

  • Any injury not adequately cleaned and medicated

  • Frequent complaints in pain in areas covered by clothing

  • Unusual difficulty walking or sitting

  • Fear of being alone with caregiver

  • Loss of weight or dehydrated and malnourished without other signs of illness or disease

  • Absence of hair in certain areas of an otherwise full head of hair

  • Dirty bed linens

  • Dressed in torn and dirty clothes

  • Poor skin condition

  • Lack of personal cleanliness, rashes, sores, lice, consistent urine or fecal smells

  • In need of medical or dental care

  • Begs for food

  • Left unattended for long periods of time

  • Elders who are not given permission to talk for themselves

  • You must immediately call for help if you see or know of someone with these symptoms! In Northeast Florida, call:

State Attorney’s Office: (904) 630-4994

Florida Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-800-342-9152

Legal Aid: (904) 356-8371

Professional Elder Care Management
Jacksonville, Florida

(904) 536-3890

Geriatric Care Management, Medical Advocacy, Professional Nurse Consulting, Nursing Home Supervision, Long-term Care Consulting, Guardianship Services, In Home Assessments, Assistance with Home Health Care Services, Senior Health Education & Training, Corporate Senior Care, Medical Bill Review, Assistance with Medicaid and Medicare Concerns, Aging Services, Medication Supervision, Health & Wellness Fairs.

Copyright © 2007 by Dena R. Howard.  All rights reserved.
 Reproduction in whole or in part by any means without
 written  permission of the author is prohibited.