Today, 15 June, marks the official Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder abuse is a stark reality which occurs on a daily basis on a global scale. The abuse tends to take the form of financial abuse where vulnerable individuals are targeted for financial gain.
The World Health Organisation states that “Over 15% of people over the age of 60 in the WHO European Region, approximately 30 million people, were estimated to be affected by some form of abuse last year. While it is too early to have robust, updated data for 2020, it is believed that abuse towards older people has risen significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In this difficult time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we are aware of the signs of elder abuse so that we can look out for our elderly and vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours.
The perpetrator of the abuse can be people not known to the individual, such as door to door salesmen or, more commonly individuals that are very well known to individual, such as a child or other close family member or friend.
Common indicators of financial abuse include:
- The individual becoming withdrawn from other individuals in their life, and becoming reliant on one person solely, with access to individuals being restricted by the person that they are relying on;
- Assets becoming depleted without any explanation, for example regular payments going out of their account for which they are finding it difficult to provide an explanation for, or for which they have no details;
- The individual’s funds being misused. This can include someone acting on their behalf and using the funds for their own benefit as opposed to for the benefit of the elderly individual;
- Large gifts being made from the elderly individual’s funds on their behalf;
- Funds becoming intermingled with someone else’s funds. An acting Attorney/Deputy can access the funds while they are left in the individual’s name, and the funds do not therefore need to be transferred into the name of the Attorney/Deputy, or need to be intermingled with their funds;
- Loans and liabilities being taken out in the individual’s name without real reason. An example of this is taking out a mortgage or equity release against their property where their property was mortgage free and they received sufficient income to maintain themselves;
- An Attorney or Deputy has not kept any real records of transactions that have occurred and unable to clarify or justify the transactions.
In general terms, the action that you can take to protect an individual is ensuring that you are maintaining contact with them and they are not left isolated. This will allow you to pick up on anything that is peculiar, for example, the individual has been approached by another individual who has made several requests for funds or provided them with advice regarding investments/loan schemes that they have no need for or are clearly not in their best interest.
if you are concerned that an individual is suffering financial abuse, you should raise the alarm with the relevant authority. If your concern relates to the abuse from an Attorney or Deputy you should speak to the Court of Protection (in the case of a Deputy) or Office of Public Guardian (in the case of an Attorney) in order that they can investigate the alleged abuse, and the appropriateness and suitability of the Attorney/Deputy to continue their role.
If you yourself are elderly and are concerned about suffering financial abuse in future when you are unable to manage your own finances, you may wish to seek legal advice regarding the setting up of a Lasting Power of Attorney. Seeking the advice from a solicitor will help to protect you as a solicitor will raise various questions when taking instructions to help identify potential problems in future. If you would like any further advice on setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney, or advice relating to an existing Lasting Power of Attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01707 329333.