Originally published by Financial and Consumer Services Commission of New Brunswick. Republished with permission.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is recognized annually on June 15. It is important that we break down the myths surrounding financial abuse and shine a light on what each of us can do to protect ourselves or the seniors in our lives. By understanding how and where financial abuse and exploitation happens and recognizing the warning signs, we can all be in a better position to speak up for ourselves or for those who may not be in a position to recognize the danger or report it themselves.
Results of the commission’s latest provincial awareness survey indicate that of those surveyed:
87 per cent think senior financial abuse is an issue;
25 per cent reported that they personally know someone who has (or whom they suspect has) been a victim of senior financial abuse; however
Only 19 per cent of those who knew or suspected abuse reported it.
Senior financial abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes for a variety of reasons. Fears of age discrimination and loss of independence may keep seniors from speaking up when they are being abused. Others may be afraid or worried about the consequences of reporting, including losing valued relationships with close friends, family members or primary caregivers. However, financial abuse can have devastating impacts that extend beyond the pocket book. There are health implications, such as the stress of a financial loss, higher rates of depression, and increased panic attacks. Higher mortality rates are also associated with elderly victims, compared to those of the same age who were not victimized.
Taking proactive steps to arrange your financial affairs may help prevent you from becoming a victim of financial exploitation or abuse. Making decisions about how you want your financial affairs managed helps build confidence and can help ease the concern about having enough money.
As we age, we naturally become more dependent on others. This can make any of us more vulnerable. Senior financial exploitation can take many forms; from a caregiver taking a senior’s money or using their bank cards to pay for personal expenses, to abuse of a power of attorney, to providing questionable advice with respect to protecting financial assets. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day gives us the opportunity to raise awareness and encourage all to speak up to end the stigma surrounding these issues and report when they witness or suspect abuse happening in their communities.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about is potentially the victim of financial abuse or exploitation or at risk of becoming a victim of financial abuse or exploitation, review FCNB’s Recognizing Financial Abuse Pocket Guide for tips and red flags.