Education regarding financial abuse of the elderly, warning signs, and steps that can be taken to minimize or remedy such abuse could be targeted at health care providers who regularly provide services to the elderly. In addition, protocols for detecting elder abuse that include questions pertaining to financial abuse have been developed for physicians (Kleinschmidt, 1997; Tueth, 2000), nurses (Fulmer and Cahill, 1984), and emergency department professionals (Fulmer et al., 1992) and could be made more readily available to them.
Social services agencies may already be responsible for providing services to elder persons who are vulnerable to financial abuse and they could be assigned a specific or enhanced role in preventing such abuse. Alternatively, they could be given responsibility for providing financial assistance to the elderly. For example, as noted, some states have fiduciary abuse specialist teams (FASTs), which include expert financial and legal consultants, to help victims recover or prevent further loss of their assets (Bernatz et al., 2001). Such teams could be made available to elder persons seeking advice on or assistance with financial decisions as a means to prevent financial abuse of the elderly.
Alternatively, assessment instruments for detecting elder abuse, which include signals of financial abuse, have been developed for caseworkers visiting elders in the community (Reis, 2000; Sengstock and Hwalek, 1986). However, one survey found little enthusiasm for involving social services agencies in these surveillance efforts, with caseworkers stressing that sorting out financial affairs was complex and time-consuming (Langan and Means, 1996). In addition, it has been noted that social service agencies have long recognized the need to provide financial assistance, including assistance with daily money management, but the scope and availability of such services vary greatly around the country and few free or low-cost programs provide a full range of such services (Bassuk, 2001). It is also likely that many elder persons would be reluctant to permit governmental agencies and personnel to become involved in their financial affairs. Moreover, it has been noted that elders and their relatives are often not aware of financial-management services offered by community-based agencies (Choi and Mayer, 2000).
Two of the leading authorities on financial abuse of the elderly have identified what they consider to be the important research questions. Nerenberg writes: