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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
mittee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2001). It has also been suggested that the difficulties of living on a fixed income may enhance their willingness to try a “get-rich-quick” scheme (Dessin, 2000).
Other reasons focus on characteristics of the elderly. One explanation is that elder persons may be easily identifiable and are presumed vulnerable (Central California Legal Services, 2001). In addition, elder persons may be more likely to have conditions or disabilities that make them easy targets for financial abuse, including forgetfulness or other cognitive impairments (Central California Legal Services, 2001; Choi and Mayer, 2000). Elder persons may also have a diminished capacity to rationally evaluate proposed courses of action (Dessin, 2000).
A third set of factors focuses on social isolation that the elderly may experience (Quinn, 2000). For example, elder persons may be more likely to have disabilities that make them dependent on others for help. These “helpers” may have ready access to elder persons’ assets, documents, or financial information or be able to exercise significant influence over the elder person (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2001; Nerenberg, 2000c; Quinn, 2000). In addition, seniors may be isolated due to their lack of mobility or because they live alone, which shields perpetrators from scrutiny and insulates victims from those who can help (Dessin, 2000; Nerenberg, 2000c). Also, the elderly may be lonely and desire companionship and thus be susceptible to persons seeking to take advantage of them (Hwang, 1996).
A fourth group of reasons suggests that perpetrators assume that financial abuse of the elderly is unlikely to result in apprehension or repercussions. Perpetrators may believe that elder persons are less likely to report abuse or take action against perpetrators, particularly if they have been victimized by family members or other trusted individuals (Central California Legal Services, 2001; Hwang, 1996; National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2001). The elder person may be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or be intimidated by the abuser (Hwang, 1996). Perpetrators may also recognize that older people in very poor health may not survive long enough to follow through on lengthy legal interventions (Central California Legal Services, 2001; National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2001) or that they will not make convincing witnesses (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2001).
RISK FACTORS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTIMS
A number of conditions or factors have been identified as increasing the likelihood that an older person will be the victim of financial abuse in a domestic setting. However, there has also been limited systematic research on this issue.