Every year, abuse and exploitation rob older Americans of $3 billion — and this is only the amount reported. When criminals take advantage of older persons by forging a signature or coercing them to sign a will, the impact goes far beyond the pocketbook and affects the physical and emotional health of the victim. Those who perpetrate these crimes can be a stranger, such as an aide who comes into the home to assist with daily activities, or they can be someone in a position of trust, such as a family member.
For the 42 million family caregivers who provide a great labor of love by helping their parents and spouses live independently at home, the threat of elder abuse is daunting. While some family caregivers provide 24/7 care — assisting with finances, transportation, medication management and more — others may count on the support of paid aides to help. Entrusting the care of a loved one to a stranger can be hard enough; imagine the nightmare if that person is a criminal.
"Abuse of older Americans, whether it be physical or financial, is unconscionable. That's why AARP is fighting in states across the nation for new laws to crack down on abuse and financial exploitation and strengthen protections for victims so all Americans can live with dignity and independence as they age,” says AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.
Right now, AARP staff and volunteers across the states are working hard to fight elder abuse and exploitation. Here’s how:
Preserve and strengthen state adult protective-services agencies.
These agencies investigate complaints about abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults who are unable to care for themselves or make decisions due to mental or physical impairment, illness or a crisis in their lives.
In 2014, AARP advocated for increased funding and to ward off efforts to cut funding for the agencies in five states: Arizona, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
Better prevent, detect and address financial exploitation
While each state has a different approach, many are fighting elder financial exploitation with task forces, new legislation and more.
Last year seven states enacted bills to protect their older residents against abuse and exploitation: Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia.
Increase penalties against perpetrators
Both Iowa and West Virginia adopted legislation last year to increase criminal and civil penalties against perpetrators of financial exploitation and to update the definition of financial exploitation.
Pass Uniform Adult Guardianship and Power of Attorney Laws
Uniform laws focused on adult guardianship and power of attorney not only support those who provide caregiving across state lines, but they also create processes to help protect older people against abuse and exploitation.
Six states passed uniform adult guardianship or power of attorney laws in 2014, and this year additional states have already introduced legislation.
We’re still fighting in states across the country to help older Americans maintain their independence. So far in 2015, nearly a dozen bills have been introduced that would help protect seniors from abuse and exploitation.
How to get help:
- People who witness any form of abuse should call 911.
- A state-by-state list of places to report elder abuse is available on the U.S. Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse website, ncea.aoa.gov, or by calling 800-677-1116.
- If you’re a caregiver, know the facts about managing your loved one’s money