An episode of "Dr. Phil" this week that focused on elder abuse—both financial and physical—struck a chord with a number of people, if the show's comments section is any indication. Numerous commenters reported abuse of their own parents by professionals in nursing-home settings and by relatives in the elderly people's own homes.
Our own investigative report on financial exploitation of older people underlines how widespread such abuse is.
Financial exploitation of elders is broadly defined as the illegal or improper use of the funds, property, or assets of people 60 and older. In one national study, 5.2 percent of older Americans said they'd been victimized by family members, and 6.5 percent said they'd been exploited by others. A seminal national study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found that the cost of such abuses is at least $2.9 billion a year. Yet many experts told us that because these crimes often go unreported, those estimates are most likely the tip of the iceberg.
Several of Dr. Phil's readers suggested they had no recourse to halt the abuse of their loved ones. In fact, we found there are numerous avenues on the national and local level, with both government and not-for-profit organizations.
Many of the commenters correctly noted that one of the best preventive measures is vigilance. To catch elder abuse requires your willingness to visit your elderly loved one both at regular and irregular times. See the bottom of our article Protecting Mom & Dad's money for resources and additional advice.