We have a growing elderly population. In the United States, the 2010 census recorded the greatest number and proportion of people age 65 and older in all of history. Projections show that by the year 2050, people age 65 and older are expected to comprise 20% or more of the total US population. The fastest growing segment of America’s population consists of those 85 or older.
The statistics show a population that will be increasing in age, frailty, and vulnerability to both financial, and physical or other abuse. Most people seem to fear abuse from a stranger, or scams from an outsiders, and the like. Although statistics are a little hard to come by, and often a little unreliable (because reporting is unreliable), it would appear that as many as 90% of the abusers are family members. This would include most often, in order, the following:
- Adult children
- Other family members
In fact, according to many reports, anywhere from approximately 2/3, to as much as 90% of the abusers are adult children or spouses. Additionally, some statistics show that cases of financial abuse, outnumber physical abuse, by as much as 10 to 1.
Other statistics show that family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, or who have mental or emotional illness abuse at higher rates than those who do not.
In reviewing the research in this area, it’s clear that most of the research focuses on the victims; the motivation of the abusers and the relationship between abusers and victims has not received very much attention.
In cases of financial abuse, most victims lack someone with whom they can discuss and monitor financial issues. The may also have emerging, sometimes unrecognized impairments, and can be overly trusting of the caregiver or Power of Attorney, who is capable of theft, fraud or misuse of assets.
There are steps you can take to protect people. These can include having well-crafted financial documents, such as Powers of Attorney, rather than relying on the Statutory Powers of Attorney, or forms that may be available for free from the internet, booksellers or the like. Likewise, the person’s choice of their agent can be critical. Finally, accountability and monitoring have clearly been shown to reduce the opportunity for episodes for financial abuse.
Attorney Peter E. Grosskopf
1324 W. Clairemont Ave. Suite 10
Eau Claire, WI 54701