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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
[L]ittle is known about the extent or nature of financial crime. Apart from a few studies on telemarketing fraud, very little is known about other types of financial crime, including fraud by family members. Even less is known about the impact of financial crime on its victims, victims’ service needs, and promising approaches to meeting those needs. . . . Even less is known about victims’ mental health or social service needs and effective approaches to addressing them (2000c:70).
In contrast, the NEAIS report (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998) raised the following research questions:
Are there characteristics of the caregiving relationships among younger family members who financially exploit their older relatives that could be affected by service interventions for the perpetrators? What are those interventions? Are there services or education for persons aged 60+ that would help them from becoming victims of financial abuse, particularly by younger family members? How can employees of banks be educated and encouraged to identify and report incidents of financial exploitation that may come to their attention while serving elderly customers?
The analysis provided in the course of this report has also identified a number of research questions. Although greater attention has been given to financial abuse of the elderly in recent years, most of the accompanying commentary relies on anecdotal evidence, personal experience, or commonly shared beliefs. There is a great need for a research foundation to be generated to inform the debate over how best to respond to this abuse. In addition to the many issues that have not been subject to systematic research, there is a need for existing studies that rely on small samples to be replicated at a national or regional level and for this research to be conducted in a methodologically rigorous manner. Conducting research on elder abuse in general has proven to be difficult (see Comijs et al., 2000; Thomas, 2000), and these same difficulties generally apply to research on financial abuse of the elderly.61
In addition, there are special challenges associated with conducting research on financial abuse of the elderly. These challenges include the absence of a consistent, objective operational definition of what constitutes financial abuse; ascertaining what impact, if any, cultural differences and subjective perceptions (especially those of the elderly person) should play; whether a minimal financial amount should be involved before financial abuse is considered to have occurred; particular difficulties associated with
See Langan and Means (1996); Research on financial abuse is often quite limited, being based on very small samples or an investigation of case files of those elderly people defined by statutory agencies as victims of abuse.