An estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited annually. In fact, older Americans lose about $2.6 billion each year as a result of elder financial abuse and exploitation. This money could be used to pay for essential needs like housing, food, or medical care.
In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, we’re sharing how your caring ensures Iona can be a safety net and stop the exploitation of your neighbors.
Nancy had a history of falls. Her apartment didn’t have an elevator. And she was anxious about taking the stairs. So it seemed like the perfect solution when she asked a neighbor to deliver her rent to the building manager every month. Until the eviction notice came.
“The neighbor was pocketing Nancy’s money,” says Iona social worker Christine Kenny.
Fortunately, Nancy had a safety net. After Nancy was referred to Iona by Adult Protective Services, Christine took action and made a plan. Today, Christine ensures that Nancy’s bills are paid on time and in full through the Citywide Money Management Program, which Iona manages.
The program launched in 2015 and has served 28 older adults across the District. All have some memory loss, live alone, and experience difficulty organizing their finances and paying bills on time—and are at-risk of exploitation.
But with your support, Iona social workers can be attentive watchdogs in our community. They look for warning signs of exploitation and scams, and jump into action if your neighbor is victimized.
Neighbors like Gene, who was scammed out of more than $3,000 in just two months for lawn service. Or Karen, whose home health aide was using her car without permission, and worse yet, racking up unpaid parking violations. “We’ve seen clients get overcharged for simple home repairs,” says Christine. “Financial exploitation is awful. Yet it’s very common, especially for people who live alone or have some cognitive decline.”
Or, imagine this heart-breaking scenario. After months of saying a source of income was missing (and being routinely dismissed by people he told), Gerald had lost hope. Things had gotten so bad that he was relying on friends to bring over food and toiletries. No longer able to pay his utilities and other bills, Gerald was referred to Iona.
His financial records were shocking. They revealed that Gerald had been exploited for months by a close family member, who had racked up nearly $15,000 in fraudulent charges. The Iona team took quick action and stopped the exploitation by closing Gerald’s compromised accounts, opening new accounts, and referring the case to Adult Protective Services.
Today, Gerald has plenty of money to pay his bills and meet all of his financial obligations. And, thanks to your continued generosity, Iona is always there to remind him about upcoming payments and remain attentive to his finances.
Your donations ensure that Iona can do this important work. And, as the aging population continues to grow, your support will be even more critical.
Worried someone in your life is a victim of exploitation? Here’s what to look for:
- Show fear of their caregiver, yet resist leaving the caregiver’s presence
- Withdraw or no longer speak
- Express extreme agitation or panic
- “Explain away” signs of harm or exploitation
- Lack basic hygiene, adequate food, clean clothing, or amenities they could afford (and need for their health or safety)
- Have signed property transfers (like Power of Attorney or will) when they are unable to comprehend the transaction
- Show signs of physical abuse like unexplained fractures, bruises, sores, or burns
To report elder abuse, contact Adult Protective Services. Local contacts are:
- Washington,DC: 202-541-3950.
- Montgomery County, MD: 240-777-3000
- Prince George’s County, MD: 301-909-2000
- Alexandria, VA: 703-746-5778
- Arlington County, VA: 703-228-1700
- Fairfax County, VA: 703-324-7450
*Names were changed to protect their identities