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There is No Excuse for Elder Abuse!

Wednesday, June 15th marked the 6th anniversary of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEEAD). This annual day of awareness was started by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and the World Health Organization at the United Nations to highlight the pain and suffering many elderly people face. INPEA says the key objective of WEAAD is to raise awareness of elder abuse throughout the world.

While elder abuse encompasses a range of abuses, those of us in the elder law arena know that financial abuse is on the rise. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Aging’s (AoA) reported that older Americans lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. AoA also cites that elder abuse occurs in every demographic and can happen to virtually anyone.

Current estimates put the overall reporting of financial exploitation at only 1 in 25 cases, suggesting that there may be at least 5 million financial abuse victims each year. It is estimated that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or selfneglect reported to authorities, about five more go unreported.

On June 1, 2011 the MetLife Mature Market Institute released their latest elder abuse study, produced in collaboration with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech. According to “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders,” older Americans are now losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.

Other major findings include:

• Crimes involving strangers as the perpetrators made up more than half (51%) of reported cases of elder financial abuse, followed by crimes involving family, friends and neighbors as perpetrators (34%).

• Women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men.

• Most victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone and required some help with either health care or home maintenance.

• Nearly 60% of perpetrators were males, mostly between ages 30 and 59.

The report, accompanied by a consumer guide, “The Essentials: Preventing Elder Abuse” and tip sheets for older adults and family caregivers, contains the stories of some of those targeted and the circumstances involving the crimes perpetrated against them. To download a copy of the study, visit: and click on their Research site.

Elder law attorneys are in a unique position to recognize and fight elder abuse. When an elder is a victim of a trust mill, sold unsuitable annuities, reverse mortgages or “estate planning” services by non-attorneys, estate planning attorneys are the ones who have to clean up the damage incurred by these predators. Elder abuse litigators are the ones who have to sue the predators to obtain restitution for the elders. Clearly we need to work together to stop the abuse and exploitation of our elders.