Seniors at increased risk of financial abuse due to COVID isolation
Our seniors deserve our respect and care in ensuring not only their physical well-being but their emotional, social, and financial well-being as well. Helping seniors retain their dignity and vibrancy through social interaction is one strategy family members and elder-care advocates aim to ensure. Isolation is one of the leading contributors to and warning signs of potential elder abuse.
Unfortunately, the COVID crisis created unprecedented social isolation among our senior population. Throughout the months of the pandemic, family members and other advocates were not permitted to visit elders in institutional environments due to shutdown restrictions. During an extended period, elders were effectively isolated from any outside observation, oversight, and emotional support from those who know and love them most.
Family members and other advocates worried that increased opportunity for financial and other elder abuse would go undetected because of mandated separation from their vulnerable seniors. Sadly, the risk of financial and other elder abuses extended beyond those in institutional care to those seniors who were isolated in-home as well.
Watch for warning signs
Now more than ever, we must be vigilant for signs of fraud and other abuses against our seniors regardless of their living arrangements. Naturally, those suffering from cognitive decline are at even greater risk. Here are a few things to watch for and investigate particularly if they occurred during periods of isolation:
Has your loved one filed a new power-of-attorney or has financial control been transferred to another person? Are they suddenly more secretive about their finances than they were prior to being isolated? Is there someone new who has suddenly appeared as an “invaluable friend” to your loved one? Are they making unexpected or excessive gifts or financial reimbursements to unknown parties? Have treasured items been lost or misplaced?
Scammers wasted no time in attempting to take advantage of isolated seniors during COVID. Charity, stimulus-related, and insurance scams frequently targeted the elderly. Scammers posed as government agents from the Social Security Administration or attempted to get credit card information for COVID home test kits. Elders, particularly those suffering from cognitive declines, who were accustomed to having an advocate help them with such violations against their well-being were suddenly and without warning cut-off from physical access to trusted resources.
There are always plenty of bad actors who are willing to take advantage of any crisis and COVID presented an opportunity of epic proportions for them. Sadly, it was our elders and our youth who were the most at-risk from the non-health related consequences of this global travesty.
The financial implications of COVID are just beginning to be realized. We may never know the full extent of financial or other forms of abuse some of our elders may have experienced because of isolation during COVID.