As noted in the first entry of this series, reports of elder financial abuse have significantly increased in Oregon over the last several years. Although this indicates a rise in awareness about the issue, experts are concerned the number of reports is only marginal in comparison to the actual incidents of abuse. Unfortunately, this disparity may be for reasons that hit closer to home than we care to admit.
Fighting against elder abuse begins with the hardest part: identifying the problem. Though it may be shocking to learn, friends, family, acquaintances, and caregivers of victims are the most common perpetrators of elder abuse. As a result, so few abuses are reported, likely due to victims' disbelief that someone so close has or would take advantage of them in such a manner.
As unexpected as it may be, however, it makes sense. Many family members or friends take over financial and other responsibilities of the elderly when they are no longer able or willing to put forth the effort themselves. Although we normally view this as a kind gesture, it can leave elderly persons particularly venerable to abuse. Especially in the case of managing finances, where considerable responsibility is passed off, the victim may not even realize the abuse is occurring.
Challenging a loved one's friends or family can be an extremely difficult and sensitive situation. If you suspect a loved one's friend or family member of financial or other abuse, you should contact an elder abuse attorney to help expose any wrongdoing, and to help put your loved one at peace.