As for the characteristics of the perpetrators, the NEAIS report concluded that the relative youth of perpetrators of financial abuse was particularly striking compared to other types of abuse (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998). This study found 45.1 percent of the perpetrators were age 40 or younger (versus 27.4 percent for all forms of elder abuse) and another 39.5 percent were 41 to 59 years of age. It also found 59 percent of the perpetrators were male (versus 52.5 percent for all forms of elder abuse).

In addition, people who financially abuse the elderly are often family members, particularly adult children and grandchildren (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1996; Quinn, 2000; Rush and Lank, 2000; Sklar, 2000). The NEAIS report found that 60.4 percent of the substantiated 1996 APS financial abuse cases involved an adult child (versus 47.3 percent for all forms of elder abuse) and only 4.9 percent involved a spouse (versus 19.3 percent for all forms of elder abuse). In addition, it has been asserted that “crimes [by the elders’ offspring] go undetected or are discovered long after the assets have been depleted” (Sklar, 2000:21).

A study of one county’s APS reports of financial exploitation found that roughly 40 percent of the perpetrators were the victim’s sons or daughters, 20 percent were other relatives (only 1.5 percent were spouses), and 4 percent were not relatives (Choi et al., 1999). A related study found that spouses were perpetrators of financial exploitation in only 1.5 percent of cases as opposed to 13.8 percent of all other elder abuse cases (Choi and Mayer, 2000). This study also found, however, that nonrelatives were the perpetrators in 38.8 percent of the financial exploitation cases in contrast to only 14.7 percent of all other elder abuse cases (Choi and Mayer, 2000). Another report concluded that perpetrators are often relatives, particularly children or grandchildren of the victim, many of whom depend on the elderly victim for housing or other assistance, have substance abuse problems, and are represented almost equally by both genders (Coker and Little, 1997).

Tueth (2000) constructed from the literature two types of perpetrators of elder exploitation. The first type consisted of dysfunctional individuals with low self-esteem who may be abusing substances, psychosocially stressed, or suffering from caregiver burden. Such individuals will not seek out victims but instead passively take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. The second, more aggressive type methodically identifies victims, establishes power and control over them, and obtains the elder’s assets by using deceit, intimidation, and other forms of psychological abuse. Such individuals may have an antisocial personality disorder and have little regard for the rights of others. In a typical sequence, the victim is identified as impaired and vulnerable; the victim’s trust is secured by being friendly, helpful, and providing assistance; the victim is made passive

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