When viewed in conjunction with the barriers discussed above that limit the filing of such reports, it is likely that the elder abuse reporting system results in both an overreporting (i.e., false positives) and underreporting (i.e., false negatives) of financial abuse of the elderly.


In part because of the many forms financial abuse of the elderly can take, commentators have noted the difficulty of crafting a response system that adequately redresses such abuse and deters its subsequent occurrence (Dessin, 2000). Because there is no federal statute that deals directly with financial abuse of the elderly, the issue has instead been addressed seriatim by the various states. It is not surprising that legislative measures for responding to financial abuse have often been criticized as piecemeal (Dessin, 2000). There has also been little systematic evaluation of these various measures and virtually no comparisons of their relative effectiveness. As will be discussed, drawbacks and limitations for each of them have been identified by commentators reviewing them. It has also been noted that the legal system would likely be overwhelmed if it was seen as the primary means of handling the financial affairs of even elder persons who lack decision-making capacity (Langan and Means, 1996). Nevertheless, most states have a range of measures available for responding to financial abuse of the elderly and new measures are being instituted (Stiegel, 2000).

Administrative/APS Agencies

All states have adopted some form of adult protective services law that enables state agencies to offer remedies to victims of elder abuse (AARP, 2001) and each state generally has an APS agency designed to prevent and address problems the elderly may face (Dessin, 2000).44 These agencies focus on maintaining a system for receiving reports of mistreatment, investigating cases, and providing protection or assistance to the elder person rather than punishing the perpetrator (Moskowitz, 1998b; Otto, 2000; Roby and Sullivan, 2000). They generally can take steps to protect the elder person from further abuse, including obtaining protective orders and the initiation of a guardianship to place the assets of the elder person in the hands of a guardian (Capezuti et al., 1997; Dessin, 2000).

Advocates for the elderly complain that the federal government has inappropriately reduced the financial assistance it gives the states to develop and maintain protective services for the elderly and should be more


One exception is North Dakota, which has an APS law but does not have a functioning APS program (Stiegel, personal communication, October 2001).

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