Initiated in 2006 by the United Nations, June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a good time to focus on financial exploitation of elders at the local, state and federal levels…
No surprises here for anyone who follows how some institutions go after control of elders and their assets. This article describes well the abusive patterns in place and how organizations and parties accomplish them.
Elder abuse is a national epidemic, affecting elders of all economic strata (ie., socialite Brooke Astor, actor Peter Falk, DJ Casey Kasem) but the majority of victims do not have extreme wealth. They are your neighbors, parents and friends. Through undue influence and coercion, intimidation, isolation, and misrepresentation, these vulnerable elders can lose their civil rights, their homes and lifelong savings. They and their families are easy targets for medical, legal and finance professionals who work together with others to isolate an elder and gain control of their person and their assets, using questionable dementia or incapacity diagnoses in tandem with medications like antipsychotics and opioids to obtain and implement health care proxies, powers of attorney, guardianships and conservatorships…
“Over-medicated elders, through health care proxies, powers of attorney, guardianships and conservatorships, unnecessarily lose their civil rights and then lose
their assets and homes. Common exploitation scenarios involve multiple parties and organizations colluding together to target elders, particularly those with
less than $500,000 in assets and property.”
“Good to see criminal charges filed in case of alleged scam” Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe 11/12/15
“It is gratifying to read that prosecutor Andrew Doherty brought criminal charges against someone he believes exploited two elderly siblings, leaving them homeless (“Alleged scam preyed on siblings,” Metro, Nov. 6). Usually these exploitation cases are buried in civil court, if the abuse ever surfaces at all, where many parties may feed at the trough until the assets are gone or the elders die.
Abusers tend to target elders who occupy land they want or have assets under $500,000, and, through undue influence, coercion, intimidation, isolation, or misrepresentation, gain control over the elders and their assets. This often happens under the radar through powers of attorney, often family members, and sometimes, as in the case alleged here, through a personal representative.
Don’t expect Massachusetts Protective Services to help; a year ago, a report of a special state commission investigating elder protective services found workers lacked training in financial exploitation of elders. Abusers know this, and little has changed since the report was issued last October.”
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15, 2015.
While an estimated $2.6 billion a year is lost to financial exploitation, slow progress is being made to protect elders. Reports in October 2014 by Massachusetts Special Commission on Elder Protective Services (EPS) and in March 2015 by the Maine Attorney General’s Task Force on Financial Exploitation of Elderly reveal huge gaps in training and protections. Current Georgia legislation, House Bill 72, would make collusion and racketeering to exploit elders a felony.
While each state struggles to address the elder abuse problem, financial exploitation crosses state lines and cries for national solutions. Contact your state and federal legislators.
The Maine Attorney General Task Force Final Report on Financial Exploitation of Elderly was released on March 11, 2015. Like the Massachusetts October 23, 2014 Special Commission Report on Elder Protective Services, the Maine Task Force identifies the lack of training and staffing in handling financial crimes against the elderly.
The Maine Task Force Report, however, goes even further, noting that cases of financial crimes against the elderly are not being investigated and prosecuted as they should be, too often viewed as “private family matters or civil issues rather than crimes.”
The Task Force includes the Judiciary in the need for training and recommends timely judicial case management of these elder financial exploitation cases. “There is a pervasive lack of training for all professionals in the system, including law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and court personnel.”
The Massachusetts Special Commission Report on Elder Protective Services was finally released October 23, 2014, originally due June 30, 2013. Unlike some states which oversee elder abuse more broadly, Massachusetts Elder Protective Services oversight does not include nursing homes and skilled long-term care facilities. Nursing homes in Massachusetts are covered by the Department of Public Health.
Though public input hearings were not held, this report indicates there are gaps in protections and includes recommendations and resources.
Issues include the lack of training of investigators in financial exploitation, the screening out of abuse complaints without investigation, a need for protocols among law enforcement / district attorneys, EPS workers and the implementation of financial abuse specialist teams.
A remaining problem area involves how “capacity” and “incapacity” is determined when conducting investigations and the failure of investigators to perceive when an elder is under undue influence, coercion, intimidation,isolation, manipulation and misrepresentation. It is unlikely an abused elder, even one alleged to be “of capacity,” will seek help under such circumstances. Maine Adult Protective Services has similar problems in the investigation of financial exploitation and abuse of elders.
This Special Commission report is just “a start” but it is a positive move toward spreading awareness of elder financial exploitation issues.
“Financial abuse of elders is a growing problem in Massachusetts. While the public may be familiar with the abuse stories of actor Mickey Rooney, radio personality Casey Kasem and millionaire Brooke Astor, people with less than $500,000 in assets also are vulnerable.”
Kay Lazar’s article “Scammers Take Aim at Aging Population” explains the lack of training in financial exploitation by Massachusetts Elder Protective Services investigators and the soon-to-be released report by the MA Legislature’s Special Commission investigating Elder Protective Services. The article also raises questions about the use and validity of the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) which the courts heavily rely upon to evaluate competency.
Financial exploitation of elders continues to be a serious, unaddressed problem in Massachusetts. More than unauthorized use of a credit card or phone scams, financial exploitation can involve a finely tuned collaboration of multiple parties, targeting specific elders and their assets, separating them from their families and their homes, possessions, stocks and bank accounts. Elders, sitting on a lifetime of assets, may be particularly vulnerable to the persuasive and complex sales pitches of assisted living facilities, Realtors, financial advisers, land developers and attorneys.
Incorrect diagnoses can also cost elders their civil rights and lead to the misuse of Powers of Attorney, Guardianships and the financial exploitation of elders.
Misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease Costs Man 3 Years – Boston.com
It can take a team to facilitate accurate diagnoses – Boston.com
Care providers, policy makers must work to fix system’s ills – Boston.com
In these two related letters, Boston experts explain that more than 60 illnesses mimic Alzheimer’s and some, when correctly diagnosed, are reversible. These experts emphasize the importance of an interdisciplinary team approach of experts from areas of neurology, psychiatry, neurophsychology, neuroradioloogy medicine and social work, to limit the possibility of incorrect diagnosis. Yet, courts in some states appoint guardianships and approve administration of antipsychotic drugs based on dementia diagnoses by such individuals as speech pathologists, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners or PCPs lacking special training in Geriatrics.
An ABC -7 story out of San Francisco, similar to elder abuse cases in Massachusetts and Maine, in which guardians and those with powers of attorney misused their power to isolate the elder in an assisted living facility, controlling visits by friends or family and violating the elder’s rights.
MASSACHUSETTS (Newbury), Newbury Port News, May 31, 2013
Not enough protection for elders
Massachusetts Protective Services follows a policy of “self-determination” when investigating abuse complaints. If an elder is “of capacity,” even while being influenced by an abuser, the elder can “self-determine” the scope of Protective Service’s abuse investigation, limiting the people investigators contact when they research the complaint…
Host Kendra Cooper (Massachusetts attorney and educator) and guests Attorney James Milligan and Attorney Mark Stevens discuss New Hampshire laws effective Jan. 1, 2013 which added over-the-counter drugs as a cause of driving while intoxicated and basis for arrest. The discussion includes the process a driver may encounter when pulled over by the police in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, field sobriety and divided attention testing and the increasing use of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE). The attorneys also comment on recent state crime lab problems with overseeing, identifying and maintaining evidence used for convictions.
Newburyport Daily News Letter to the Editor
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, 2012
FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION AND ELDER ABUSE
In Episode 10: MA Elder Care 2011: What we have, what we don’t, Sally is joined by guests Al Norman (Exec.Dir.Mass Home Care) and Dan O’Leary (Exec.Dir.Mystic Valley Elder Services) in the discussion of services available for elders. Following passage of the Equal Choice Bill in 2006, if an elder qualifies for state funding for nursing home care, the elder may choose home care instead, even if 24 hour care is needed.
Massachusetts Governor Patrick signs Sally’s Law, July 30, 2010.
In Q&A Episode 9: What’s happened to our Miranda rights? host Massachusetts attorney and educator Kendra Cooper (kendracooperlaw.com) discusses with guests Attorney James Milligan (MassDrunkDriving.com) and Attorney Mark Stevens (ByeByeDWI.com) the potential impact of a U.S. Supreme Court June 1, 2010 decision which erodes Miranda rights.