elder person’s home) and individuals with whom such a preexisting special relationship does not exist (Kosberg and Nahmiash, 1996; Marshall et al., 2000; National Center on Elder Abuse, 1996, 2001).7 Within domestic settings, it has been reported that the perpetrators of elder abuse are much more likely to be family members (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1996).

Although conceptualizations of what elder abuse encompasses vary considerably, the National Center on Elder Abuse (2001) identifies six major categories of elder abuse. They include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial abuse. Among these categories, financial abuse has received limited attention and is often not assessed in studies of elder abuse (Choi et al., 1999; Kleinschmidt, 1997; Tueth, 2000). Nonetheless, financial abuse is increasingly viewed as both sufficiently important to necessitate its inclusion in studies of elder abuse in general and sufficiently distinct to justify addressing it separately (Choi and Mayer, 2000).

PARAMETERS OF FINANCIAL ABUSE OF THE ELDERLY

The remainder of this report focuses on financial abuse of the elderly within a domestic setting by individuals relatively well known to the elder person. This focus encompasses financial abuse by family members, friends, and caregivers of the elder person and excludes financial abuse within institutional settings or by strangers. Domestic settings are not only a frequent setting for this abuse,8 but their tendency to involve complex family dynamics and deep-seated conflicts tends to make them particularly challenging. Although financial abuse of the elderly within institutional settings (e.g., within nursing homes) and by strangers (e.g., in the course of consumer fraud) are serious concerns in their own right and in need of systematic study (of which little has been generated to date),9 they are not the foci of this report.

To address financial abuse of the elderly, its parameters should first be defined. Variously referred to as financial mistreatment; exploitation; or fiduciary, economic, or material abuse, this type of abuse encompasses a

7  

The latter would encompass most incidents of consumer fraud.

8  

About 80 percent of the estimated 6 million dependent elders in this country are cared for at home” (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1996:11–12). Furthermore, although little research has been conducted on financial abuse within institutional settings, recent studies identifying the top 10 deficiencies in long-term care facilities identified physical abuse or neglect more frequently than financial abuse (Menio and Keller, 2000).

9  

For a discussion of consumer fraud perpetrated on the elderly, see Deem (2000), McGhee (1983), Smith (1999), and U.S. Congress (2000).



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