The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report that uncovered major holes in the state data collection on the financial abuse of seniors. This, investigators say, has made it all but impossible to accurately gauge the scope of a serious issue. The findings, including state-level data from Maine, were presented at the Senate Special Committee on Aging recently, with the goal of determining more effective ways to prevent, identify, and address instances of financial abuse and exploitation of seniors. The Committee Chairwoman is Susan Collins (R-Maine), an outspoken advocate on elder affairs and protection of the elderly.
Data collection on this issue is done at the state and local levels, so federal authorities up to this point haven’t had much influence. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to launch a data collection program that aims to help experts in curbing elderly exploitation. Even the information we do have suggests this is a major problem, with one 2015 study indicating the national annual financial loss from exploitation of elders is approximately $37 billion. Furthermore, these losses are occurring at a rate that study authors say is “alarming.” This newest GAO report, The Extent of Elder Abuse by Guardians is Unknown, but Some Measures Exist to Help Protect Older Adults, is the first time someone has looked closely at the issue of elder financial abuse since 2010, according to The Portland Press-Herald.
Although there is strong evidence to suggest that financial abuse of the elderly is most often perpetrated by adult children, nieces, nephews, and other relatives or guardians, exploitation by caretakers in nursing homes is another issue. It can be a direct indication of the facility’s failure to protect the resident, and it can also be a red flag that other forms of elder abuse are going on as well.
There are several different types of nursing home abuse and elder abuse, and they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They may include:
- Physical abuse. This is the one we most commonly identify with nursing home abuse. It involves physical force that could result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment.
- Sexual abuse. This is non-consensual sexual contact of any sort with an elder adult.
- Psychological abuse. This is also sometimes referred to as emotional abuse. It involves the infliction of pain, anguish, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts.
- Neglect. This is a failure or refusal to fulfill any part of a caretaker’s obligations or duties to an older adult.
- Financial exploitation. This involves the illegal or improper use of an elder adult’s property, assets, or funds.
A recent report by WABI TV-5 revealed some 33,000 seniors in Maine suffer some form of abuse every year. Of course, not all of them are in the care of a nursing home, but those who do reside in long-term care facilities are especially vulnerable to this type of treatment.
At the Maine Legal Services for the Elderly, nearly half of all elder abuse cases involved some form of fraud and financial exploitation.
It should be noted that one common type of exploitation endured by elder nursing home patients is health care fraud. This is when nursing homes, therapists, or hospitals charge for services that are either unnecessary or are never actually performed. This type of financial exploitation has the potential to have a direct impact on the person’s health because it means the elder is either not receiving proper medical treatment or getting treatment they do not need.
Contact Portland personal injury lawyers at Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Lack of data makes financial abuse of seniors nearly impossible to measure, Collins’ committee told, Dec. 1, 2016, Portland Press Herald
More Blog Entries:
Maine Nursing Home Litigation Now Easier With Federal Ban on Arbitration, Nov. 16, 2016, Portland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog