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Elder Abuse: 5 Million older Americans financially abused by someone they trust

The November 27, 2015, article by Elizabeth Olson in the New York Times includes a sobering on the prevalance of alder abuse – specifically, financial abuse:

“With 10,000 people turning 65 every day for the next decade, a growing pool of retirees are susceptible to such exploitation. As many as one in 20 older adults said they were financially mistreated in the recent past, according to a study financed by the Justice Department.”

You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/28/your-money/financial-abuse-of-the-elderly-sometimes-unnoticed-always-predatory.html?_r=0

We of course see this every day in our practice, and we share the author’s concerns about the challenges of prosecuting this abuse and recovering the misapporproated funds.

Ms. Olson observes that some states in the U.S. do not have statutes that assist with the prosecution of elder abuse, which makes it difficult for the victims to access a remedy. Canada has statutes enacted for the purpose of protecting older adults from financial abuse – Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act, for example, amended the Criminal Code to permit the Courts to consider the age and means of victims of elder abuse as an aggravating factor in sentencing. Another example is section 331 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes the misuse of powers of attorney for property.

However, our annual review of reported case law citing these Criminal Code sections suggests that are rarely, if ever, used to prosecute financial elder abuse. This raises questions about whether legislation alone can effectively prevent financial abuse of older adults or assist in remedying the abuse, especially in light of the reluctance to report the crime in the first place.

It seems more likely, as Ms. Olson suggests, that an effective approach to reducing elder abuse involves multi-sectoral and multi-generational education and awareness, not simply statutory reform.



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