September 5, 2017

Elder abuse is a sad reality of our time. People looking after a parent or grandparent have been known to abuse their elder in a physical or emotional manner. On occasion the abuse can be financial or even a combination of all three types of abuse.

Financial abuse can take many forms: borrowing money without repayment; taking direct control of the elder person’s money and using it inappropriately for ones own benefit; or utilizing the elder person’s credit cards, often without either permission or repayment.

Sometimes things start innocently enough – “borrowing” a parent’s credit card to make a purchase either online or in store. But that can lead to a slippery slope if repayment is not immediate. If it isn’t your credit card – don’t use it.

Sadly this type of abuse goes largely unreported mostly due to the elders’ dependence on their adult children but also because people don’t understand that they are in fact committing a crime.  Some people think that if they are helping their parents they have a right to compensation and since the parent is often incapacitated to some extent they take their own liberties.

Some family members seeing elder abuse become willfully blind because it is easier to look the other way than it is to intervene and take on the responsibility of being a primary care giver.  There are fee for service organizations in the community such as elder access that can help but such services are either not available or are scarcely available for lower income seniors who are more at risk.  Be a good neighbour – help out, it may be all you can do.

For seniors who are in debt and whose available credit is being abused by their children or family members, filing an assignment into bankruptcy may provide a measure of protection by removing at least some of the temptation from the caregiver.  Most bankruptcy trustees are well connected with their communities and in addition to solving debt problems can direct people to appropriate resources for assistance and intervention.