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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
signed before money is loaned (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001). References of people being hired to serve as caregivers should be carefully screened and attention given to a caregiver who tries to isolate an older person (Zimka, 1997).
A number of suggestions have been made to prevent abuse of a durable power of attorney. It has been suggested that the elder person carefully choose a trustworthy friend or relative to act as the agent, appoint two trustworthy persons to act jointly thereby creating a check on their individual actions, establish a “springing power of attorney” that does not take effect until a specific event occurs such as the loss of capacity, and specify that the power of attorney does not take effect until two doctors have certified that the individual is incapacitated (Hwang, 1996). Important legal actions, such as preparing or revising a will and establishing a power of attorney, should be done with a lawyer’s assistance (Hoban, 2000; National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001).
When financial abuse is suspected, a number of courses of action have been suggested for elder persons or for individuals who are concerned about the well-being of the elderly. They include contacting a bank and requesting that it flag and observe activity in the elder person’s account, arranging for a review of account activity and associated signatures, transferring funds to a new account or closing an old account, and requesting a bank investigation (Central California Legal Services, 2001; National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001). Similarly, steps can be taken to revoke a power of attorney and to request an accounting (Central California Legal Services, 2001; National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001). The Social Security Administration, the Veteran’s Administration, or a pension board can be notified of the possible theft of benefit or annuity checks, of a new representative payee, or of new arrangements for direct deposit or delivery of checks (Central California Legal Services, 2001). Finally, steps can be initiated to remove a perpetrator from the home of the elder person or to establish a guardianship to protect the assets of the elder person (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001).
A group of individuals frequently cited as being best positioned to provide early detection of possible financial abuse are employees of banks or other financial institutions who interact with the elderly person or process account activity (Choi et al., 1999; National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2001; Podnieks, 1992; Zimka, 1997). One commentator noted that “[b]ank employees, given their frequent contact with older clients who prefer personal bank visits to automatic teller machines, are often the first to spot suspicious banking activity that may be indicative of abuse” (Tom,