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Protecting the Elderly: Key Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation

Posted By Joette Melendez, Monday, October 2, 2017

Thousands of Georgia families have made the extremely difficult decision to place their aging parents, grandparents or other loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. We trust these facilities to take care of our relatives and make sure their needs are met. That’s why it’s so devastating when they turn out to be negligent, or worse, perpetrators of abuse.


While it doesn’t get a lot of media attention, the most common form of elder abuse isn’t physical, sexual or emotional – it’s financial exploitation. Nationwide, it’s a billion-dollar problem. And the perpetrators, far too often, get away with it – only a tiny fraction of cases of financial exploitation are reported.


If you have an elderly loved one in a long-term care facility, you need to be their strongest advocate and watch out for any signs of financial abuse. Here’s what you need to look for:


• Sudden changes in estate planning documents. This might include a change in your loved one’s Last Will and Testament or a related document. Financial exploitation often comes relatively late in the estate planning process, with an abrupt – and suspicious – departure from a long-standing plan.

• Inconsistencies in documentation. Make sure you’re carefully reviewing your loved one’s financial documents, such as billing statements, and cross-referencing them with other documents such as treatment notes. Discrepancies may point to double-billing or billing for services not rendered.

• Reluctance to communicate. If your loved one previously was happy to talk about financial matters with you and has recently become withdrawn or evasive, that’s a significant red flag. They may know something is wrong.

• Isolation. This is a red flag for any sort of abuse, and financial exploitation is no exception. While the nursing home may have legitimate reasons to limit calls or visits, if you find that you’re unreasonably isolated from your loved one, the nursing home may be trying to hide signs of exploitation.

• Unexplained transfers or withdrawals. This is one of the clearest warning signs of financial abuse. If your loved one’s assets are actually being taken by another person, you need to take immediate action.


Now, there are possible legitimate explanations for anything that may look like a warning sign of financial exploitation. If you have reason to suspect that your loved one may be a victim, don’t panic. Call an attorney with experience handling nursing home negligence cases and explain your concerns. Your attorney can investigate and get to the bottom of the situation.


If nothing else, you’ll get the invaluable peace of mind that comes from knowing the truth. And if your loved one has been exploited, an attorney can help you put a stop to it – and fight for the compensation you need to get your loved one’s life back on track.


This content was written by one of our panel members, George Johnson, an attorney in Decatur, Georgia.


***If you or someone you know is faced with elder law issues, please call

Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service

at 404-521-0777.***


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