Impact of Differences Between Child Abuse and Financial Abuse of the Elderly

As a result of the differences between child abuse and financial abuse of the elderly, models for redressing financial abuse of the elderly may need to adopt a different approach from that used in child abuse models. In light of the scarce amount of research on the topic, it is difficult to determine how a child abuse model might be usefully applied to the financial abuse of the elderly. If financial abuse of the elderly is more difficult to detect than child abuse, financial abuse of the elderly could necessitate a model that is more proactive in detecting and responding to instances of such abuse. Similarly, if research indicates that large numbers of egregious incidents of elder financial abuse go unreported or unaddressed under a child abuse model, more expansive measures than established under a child abuse model may be necessary to enhance the filing of financial abuse reports and their subsequent investigation.

On the other hand, if research shows that victims of financial abuse find reports and subsequent interventions to be relatively invasive and repugnant, the reporting and investigation of financial abuse may need to be circumscribed more narrowly than is typical for child abuse. If research shows that most elderly persons resist or resent intrusion into their financial affairs, that most older persons have bona fide reasons for their resistance or resentment, or that most reports are not subsequently confirmed, arguably the criteria for reporting or undertaking an investigation of reported abuse should be narrowed from that applied to reports of child abuse. Under such circumstances, greater weight may need to be given to the wishes of purported victims and their right to enter into or remain in what appear to be abusive interactions (Dessin, 2000).

As current research, albeit relatively scanty, tends to show support for both of the above scenarios, a dichotomous model relatively unique to financial abuse of the elderly may be needed. A paternalistic model (similar to that used for child abuse) might be applied to elder persons for whom a determination can be made that there is a lack of financial decision-making capacity. However, a less paternalistic model would be used for those elderly persons for whom such a determination cannot be made. For the former, the parens patriae rationale associated with the child abuse model is arguably more fitting, justifying vigorous efforts to monitor their vulnerability to financial abuse and to enhance the reporting and investigation of potential abuse. For the latter, our legal system dictates that such individuals be presumed to know what is in their best interests. Even if a transfer of resources seems unjustified or inequitable to a third party, reporting and intervention would be limited to when there is an indication of fraud, duress, undue influence, or the like. Of course, determining when an



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