Financial Abuse of Elderly Residents – How You Can Help

Kerry Blackhurst

Kerry Blackhurst, Associate Solicitor at SAS Daniels in Cheshire, discusses the impact of financial abuse of the elderly - and what care providers can do to prevent it.

Available statistics show that financial abuse of the elderly is rapidly escalating, and it is estimated that one in every six people over the age of 60 will fall victim at some point. There are now over 15 million people aged 60+, so you can see the scale of the problem.

Whilst there are many rogue traders, conmen and scammers who will prey on the elderly and vulnerable, it is an unfortunate fact that most incidences of financial abuse are carried out by those family and friends who are closest to the person. Those with dementia or reduced cognitive ability are most vulnerable to financial abuse, with elderly women aged over 80 being twice as likely to experience financial abuse than their male counterparts.

Leading charity, Action On Elder Abuse, says its helpline received reports of theft from elderly people totalling £42 million in one year alone, with the majority of incidences involving family members.

Undoubtedly the appointment of an attorney could be seen by an elderly person as a sensible precaution to minimise the possibility of financial abuse, however there are unfortunately numerous incidences of attorneys perpetrating financial abuse under the authority given to them. Sometimes this is due to simply mismanaging the older person’s finances and misunderstanding their role, but on other occasions there are more sinister motivations.

A care provider’s role in spotting incidences of financial abuse cannot be overstated. Residential care providers will usually be the first to suspect something is amiss; for example, fees are being paid late or not at all; funds are not being made available for the older person’s benefit; or family members are having inappropriate conversations with the older person about money.

Decisions about a resident’s funds should be made in their best interests and used for their benefit, primarily to fund their care needs and everyday expenses. If this is not being facilitated by an attorney then this is a primary indicator of financial abuse and should result in an immediate safeguarding referral to the relevant Local Authority to minimise any further dissipation of the resident’s funds.

As safeguarding referrals regarding financial abuse can take significant periods of time to investigate, it may also be worthwhile obtaining legal advice to see what further steps can be taken to immediately protect the resident and, from a commercial perspective, to ensure the payment of that resident’s fees can continue unimpeded. Urgent applications to the Court of Protection can result in swift protection for the victim of abuse.

Bollington's specialist care and charity team not only offers help with insurance but can also provide specialist risk management, too.  Call us on 01625 348029 if you require assistance with managing risks in your organisation.