Everyone is vulnerable to fraud and abuse, but older adults may be specifically targeted and should take extra care.
Financial abuse is the most common form of mistreatment that older adults experience. "Conservative estimates are that about 40 percent of older adults will experience some form of financial exploitation," says Martin Gorbien, MD, director of geriatric medicine and palliative care at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "It may be as high as 50 to 60 percent."
Unfortunately, today, there are even more avenues for unscrupulous people to make initial contact with older adults, through such things as insurance sales, lottery scams, Web site offers and e-mail messages. "Surprisingly, financial predators who take advantage of older people will try to get even small amounts of money from their victims," says Gorbien. "Yet, regrettably, many times it's not a stranger who is exploiting the older adult – it's a friend or family member."
Older adults can be particularly vulnerable to the influence of their caregivers, friends and family. "As expected, they are trusting of family and friends, and often can't believe that they would take advantage of them," Gorbien says.
"Many times older adults don't report the abuse. Often there is shame associated with being taken. And, on those occasion when it was done by a friend or family member, there's the added shame that it was done by someone close to them," says Gorbien.
While financial abuse is the most common form of mistreatment experienced by older adults, physical abuse is not uncommon. "Disappointingly, the abusers are often the primary caregiver," says Gorbien. "This is sometimes related to the stress of caregiving itself. It's a sad reality that there aren't more resources to take care of the elderly, especially in the form of more sophisticated caregiving options."
For more information about signs of physical abuse and neglect in older adults, please read Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults
"If you are an older adult, be careful in situations in which you might become vulnerable," says Gorbien. "If you have an older adult in your life, be extra vigilant to protect them from exploitation or abuse. You can make a difference."
More Information at Your Fingertips:
- For information on medical services for older adults, visit the Geriatric Services home page and the Rush Senior Care home page. Or call (800) 757-0202.
- To learn more about our a free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them, visit the Rush Generations home page. Or call (800) 757-0202. Rush Generations can help you with your goals for vital, healthy living.
- Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)
Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
If you enjoyed this article and are not already a subscriber, subscribe today to Discover Rush Online. You'll receive health information, breaking medical news and helpful tips for maintaining your health each month via e-mail.