(Hall, 1999; Moon, 1999). It has also been suggested that in general financial abuse is particularly likely to be underreported (Coker and Little, 1997; Hwang, 1996; Wilber and Reynolds, 1996).

It has been asserted that financial abuse often occurs in conjunction with other forms of elder abuse (Choi et al., 1999; National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001; Paris et al., 1995), although research generally does not establish how frequently this overlap occurs.17 In a study of one county’s investigated APS reports of financial exploitation Choi et al. (1999) found that caregiver neglect also occurred in 12.1 percent of the cases, self-neglect in 6.1 percent, physical abuse in 5.1 percent, and psychological abuse in 3.8 percent. In a later analysis, Choi and Mayer (2000) found that 33.7 percent of this county’s investigated reports involved financial exploitation plus either neglect or abuse, while 37.6 percent involved only financial exploitation. However, in a Canadian national survey, only 19 percent of victims were victims of more than one form of maltreatment, although it was not reported how often financial abuse occurred in conjunction with other forms of elder abuse (Podnieks, 1992).

Financial exploitation has been described as the fastest growing form of elder abuse (New York State Department of Law, 2000), although empirical support for this assertion is scanty. Societal attention to elder abuse in general is a relatively recent phenomenon, and attention to financial abuse is even more nascent (Dessin, 2000). It has been suggested that an increase in reports reflects closer scrutiny by federal, state, and local officials rather than necessarily an increase in the prevalence of financial abuse (Lavrisha, 1997). Greater attention to this issue has been attributed to increases in the number of elderly people, an increased emphasis on care at home, and the substantial resources of the elderly (Langan and Means, 1996).

The Impact of Financial Abuse on the Elderly

One of the most frightening scenarios for an elder person is the possibility of financial ruin (Dessin, 2000). Although not systematically assessed, losing assets accumulated over a lifetime, often through hard work and deprivation, can be devastating, with significant practical and psychological consequences (Dessin, 2000; Nerenberg, 2000c; Smith, 1999). Financial abuse can have as significant an impact for an elder person as a violent crime (Deem, 2000) or physical abuse (Dessin, 2000).

Replacing lost assets is generally not a viable option for retired indi-

17  

Elder abuse examples provided in governmental reports often show a combination of financial abuse and physical or psychological abuse or neglect (County Welfare Directors Association, 1988; U.S. Congress, 1981).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement