that are more flexible, less costly, and avoid judicial scrutiny (Beauchamp, 2001; Weiler, 1989). At the same time, it has been recognized that these alternatives may also present problems, including a lack of oversight and means to ensure assets are devoted to the elder person’s needs (Beauchamp, 2001; Heisler and Quinn, 1995; Weiler, 1989). At least one commentator has concluded no alternative is foolproof and “society may just have to rely on the person who takes care of the vulnerable and hope that that person does not take advantage of her position” (Beauchamp, 2001).

Health Care Providers

Finally, it has been suggested that health care providers are in a unique position to prevent financial abuse of the elderly (Bernatz et al., 2001; Lavrisha, 1997). Health care providers who see their elderly patients regularly may be in the best position to know if an older person’s mental capabilities have declined to such an extent that the individual is subject to financial abuse (Smith, 1999).60

It has been suggested, for example, that nurses in the community and in clinics are likely to encounter elder persons at risk and can assess the level of social support available, provide education on how to avoid financial exploitation, and make appropriate referrals to volunteer companion programs and the like (Lavrisha, 1997). In addition, it has been argued that nurses have an ethical and often a legal responsibility to recognize and detect potential financial mistreatment and that gerontological nurses in particular can encourage the initiation of appropriate responses to financial abuse such as the establishment of a representative payee, a durable power of attorney, a trust, or a joint tenancy (Weiler, 1989). It has also been recommended that when a person is diagnosed with a disorder that diminishes mental capacity (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), health care providers should warn the patient and family members about the potential for financial abuse and provide practical suggestions on how to avoid such abuse (e.g., by having a cosigner on bank accounts) (Bernatz et al., 2001). One physician has suggested that clinicians working with older people should consider including questions about financial affairs in their routine history and be particularly concerned when socially isolated and frail older people talk of unpaid bills, new friends who are visiting regularly and borrowing money, ongoing home renovations, or frequent large purchases (Cohen, 1998).


At the same time, an assessment of individuals 70 years of age or older who were presented for treatment at a hospital emergency room found that one of the three areas with which patients needed the most assistance was the management of finances (medications and ambulation were the other two areas) (Fulmer and Cahill, 1984).

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