In the words of Indiana’s Director of Adult Protective Services, elder financial abuse is “a drain on our resources if we don’t get a handle on it” – and, from the looks of it, Indiana authorities are far from having a handle on this widespread and devastating problem.
According to the details of one recent case, a 79-year old woman had enlisted the services of a home-based healthcare provider – who proceeded to rack up over $110,000 in stolen funds for everything ranging from a 60” television to divorce court fees. Yet, several years went by before anyone realized what had happened – at which point the money was long gone.
Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is one of the lowest priorities for law enforcement, as cases involving physical harm and neglect take precedent. According to national averages, as little as 1 in 44 cases of financial exploitation ever come to the attention of authorities – and unraveling the financial mess can be a daunting task in and of itself. Moreover, data suggests that as many as 1 in 10 victims of financial exploitation actually end up needing state and federal benefits to continue accessing long-term care – presumably due to the complete depletion of the individual’s assets by wayward caregivers.
In Indiana, data from 2010 reveals that 1,277 official criminal complaints of elder abuse were launched statewide – compared with just 110 bank robberies, for perspective. While those bank robberies involved an aggregate total asset loss of $1 million, the alleged elder abuse involved a sum as large as $38 million – and those are just the cases we know about.
Many in the Indiana legal community have been advocating for an increase in funding for Adult Protective Services – but so far, efforts have been all but futile. Currently, there is a bill awaiting review by the Indiana legislature, however it merely “urges the Legislative Council to assign the topic of APS, including that of “appropriate funding,” to a study committee later this year.”
If you are concerned about financial protection in the golden years, you should consult with qualified estate planning and elder law attorney.