While emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect and abandonment are frequently used forms of elder abuse, financial exploitation is the most common and fastest growing form of elder abuse. Anyone can take advantage of the elderly whether they are a caretaker, a family member, neighbors, attorneys, bank employees, doctors, or nurses. The mistreatment of vulnerable adults is widespread and can even become deadly. Only one in six elderly people actually report their abuse.

What is financial exploitation?

When assets (An asset is anything of value or a resource of value that can be converted into cash.) are misused by an individual for their own personal benefit, the owner of the assets has become a victim of financial exploitation. These situations happen when the elderly adult has limited or zero knowledge of their financial resources being mishandled. Financial exploitation can happen by scams and frauds which are commonly taken in forms of deception, harassment and threats. Elderly people usually have enough money to live on as retired individuals. Abusers take advantage of this opportunity and intentionally target the elderly and take or mishandle their property.

What are examples of financial exploitation?

  • Theft: This happens when assets are taken without permission or knowledge of the elderly person. Examples of items being stolen are cash, valuables, medications or personal property.
  • Fraud: Fraud involves acts of dishonesty such as falsification of records, forgeries, unauthorized checks and other financial schemes.
  • Electronic: Finances can be compromised digitally when suspicious emails are sent to trick the elderly into surrendering passwords and other personal information.
  • Investments: These can be made without consent which generates commission for the other party.
  • Insurance: Insurance can be misused by someone who’s intent is to trade insurance policies.

Physical abuse of the elderly is seen as physical violence that results in impairment, pain, or injury to the individual. Emotional abuse is more common and can be verbal or nonverbal. Neglecting an elderly individual happens when the caregiver fails to give them their medications and dietary needs, as well as hygienic, nutrition, bathing and changing needs. Abandonment occurs when someone who is responsible for the elderly’s care, leaves them to take care of themselves. This is reckless and harmful behavior that qualifies as abuse.

What are the signs and behaviors that elderly victims indicate after experiencing emotional and physical abuse?

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Expressing low self-esteem
  • Appearing depressed or withdrawn
  • Seems scared
  • Bodily harm
  • May attempt to harm themselves or others
  • May have mood swings
  • May have changes in eating or sleeping patterns

It is important to know what forms of abuse are happening whether the caregiver is a professional or family member. Prevention and response strategies for vulnerable adult abuse are numerous throughout Texas. If you witness a suspicious situation of elder abuse, call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or report online at the TxAbuseHotline.org.

If you or a loved one are experiencing abuse and need assistance, self-help resources are available via www.texaslawhelp.org.  If you or a loved one are in need of an attorney or would like to explore other resources Texas Elders can utilize if they are being abused, you can visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.