Monday, November 5, 2007

Only One Case of Elder Financial Exploitation Out of 25 Reported Nationwide

COLONIE - Cases of elder abuse are historically underreported - only one in 25 nationwide, according to a panel of local experts who deal with matters of financial abuse and exploitation of the elderly.

They shared their expertise Tuesday with attorneys, health care workers, financial managers, social workers, nurses and physicians who gathered for a day-long financial abuse conference at the Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road.
Elder abuse is a growing trend as baby boomers reach retirement age.

Networking among professionals can help curb and hopefully prevent the abuse in its earliest stages, they said at the Senior Financial Literacy Training and Education Initiative in partnership with Citizens Bank Foundation.

"We're bringing together a lot of different professional perspectives so people can develop a better understanding of the role they and others play in protecting the elderly from this kind of abuse," said Philip McCallion, a UAlbany professor and director of the Center for Excellence in Aging Services.

Financial abuse includes misuse of powers of attorney and guardianships, illegal transfers of property, misuse of a position of trust and authority, consumer fraud, identity theft, among others. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable, said Kathleen Boland, Albany County assistant district attorney.

"We want to educate the public, care givers, and anyone involved with the care of the elderly," she said.

"It's been mainly financial abuse," Boland said. She cited a case from 1998 involving a 92-year-old woman who was swindled out of $980,000 and left penniless to spend her last days in a county nursing home.

A woman posing as a home healthcare aid and members of her family sold the elder woman's house out from under her and ran up the balances on her credit cards. They likewise impersonated her and committed insurance fraud.

In some instances, abusing the trust that something such as power of attorney implies can be construed as a criminal act.

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