COLUMBUS, Ohio – More than 300 people joined an online educational forum presented this week by the Ohio Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission aimed at helping older Ohioans avoid financial exploitation, an all-too-common form of elder abuse.
“Estimates are that older people lose billions of dollars each year to theft and fraud,” Attorney General Yost told attendees. “This is a crime that threatens not just our elderly relatives, but all of us who will be fortunate enough to live into old age. So we all have an interest in improving the way we protect older Ohioans.”
The Feb. 23 forum, titled “Responding to Financial Exploitation, Scams and Fraud in Facility Settings,” was part of the commission’s annual “Protecting Older Ohioans” series, presented in partnership with the Ohio Association of Senior Centers, Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and Ohio Department of Aging.
A point of emphasis during the event was that financial exploitation crosses all social, educational and economic lines.
Nearly 14% of older adults living in nursing homes, assisted living communities and similar settings experience such abuse, said featured speaker Lisa Schifferle, of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans, citing a 2019 review of studies from around the world.
Too often, abusers are family members of victims, but they also have been caregivers, friends, neighbors, financial professionals, agents under a power of attorney, or strangers looking to scam vulnerable older adults.
Last summer, the Attorney General’s Office took a call from a 64-year-old widow who, while recovering in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center from a broken hand and fractured collarbone, learned that her daughter had all but drained the $19,000 the widow had in her bank account and also sold her home and car.
The widow’s daughter, who had been granted guardianship without her mother realizing it, was gradually withdrawing the money from the account, leaving her mother with only $1,000 and $48,000 in unpaid bills to the care facility.
In this case, the victim was able to fight to get the guardianship reversed and manage the debt to the facility, but many other elderly victims aren’t nearly as fortunate.
Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman Bob Vines told forum attendees that, in 2021, 60 percent of the involuntary discharges from Ohio care facilities resulted from nonpayment.
In the direst of these situations, Vines said, the facility residents were forced to relocate into the home of an unprepared family member or friend – or, worse, into a hotel or homeless shelter.
Which is why the Elder Abuse Commission and its partners work so diligently to prevent financial exploitation – what AG Yost calls “one of the cruelest and most heartbreaking types of crime there is” – from happening to others.
To that end, the forum covered a host of topics, including types of scams that commonly target older adults, the warning signs of exploitation, how to be proactive, what to do if you suspect financial exploitation and more.
Besides the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Ombudsman’s office, agencies represented by forum speakers included the Ohio Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Section, Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Securities and Ohio Department of Health.
The fight against elder abuse requires a multi-agency approach, as no single agency is equipped to handle the many challenges that arise in such cases.
As our nation’s population ages, family members and friends of older adults need to know how to provide guidance, education and support to loved ones who may be vulnerable to financial exploitation, including those in care facilities.
The recording of the forum will be posted to the event’s webpage on Mar. 9, 2022. In the meantime, Attorney General Yost’s full remarks have been made available at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/Videos/AG-Yost-comments-for-Elder-forum.
To learn more about the Elder Abuse Commission, visit www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Seniors/Elder-Abuse-Commission.
To get help for a victim of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, call the Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515.