Financial Exploitation Part II: Signs and Symptoms of Elder Financial Abuse

When interacting with seniors, it is important to safeguard their dignity and maintain respect for both their life experience and their wisdom.  This can present a challenge for professionals and family members alike. On one hand, you want to include the senior in decision making processes however; there are times when they may be physically or mentally unable to participate. As such, seniors become less independent and more vulnerable to financial exploitation.

The Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program (EIFFE Prevention Program) seeks to educate professionals who customarily work with senior citizens in recognizing when their clients may fall victim to financial abuse. The program pays particularly attention to support those patients with mild cognitive impairments and to refer these at-risk patients to get the appropriate help.

Many of the EIFFE Prevention Program modules can be useful for anyone in the community who has regular contact with seniors. For example, local police departments receive specialized training to recognize and address financial exploitation of seniors. Moreover, bank tellers, postal clerks, grocery cashiers, as well as friends and neighbors are distinctly positioned to be the first line of defense for vulnerable seniors.

Here is a partial list of signs and symptoms of elder financial abuse:

  • Sudden withdrawal of unusually large sums of money – often the senior is accompanied by an unfamiliar person
  • Unusual change in or inclusion of additional authorized names on the seniors bank account
  • Frequent and unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the senior’s bank account
  • Abrupt changes in the senior’s will and other financial documents
  • Mysterious disappearance of money or valuable possessions
  • Accumulation of unpaid bills despite the availability and sufficiency of funds
  • Discovery of the senior’s forged signature on financial transactions or titles of possession
  • Unexpected appearance of previously uninvolved relatives making claim to rights in the elder’s financial affairs
  • Unusual and sudden transfer of assets to a caretaker, family member or outsider
  • Sudden provision of unnecessary products or services

 

If you recognize any of these signs of abuse, file a report with Adult Protective Services or Area Agency on Aging. In Part III of this series, we will outline the common financial scams targeting elders. If you have any questions on this blog or need information on other personal injury queries, please call the Law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath located in West Palm Beach at 1-800 4-RIGHTS (1-800- 474-4487) We welcome your call and look forward to helping you.

Financial Exploitation Part I – The Most Prevalent Form of Elder Abuse

Senior citizens are considered the most vulnerable group in America second only to children.  As our population ages, financial fraud targeting elders is expected to increase dramatically. Financial exploitation consists of several types of fraud that peek at different age ranges.

  • Investment scams peak around age 65 and aim to exploit senior citizens’ fear of future financial security with schemes involving advance fees, prime bank notes or pyramid schemes
  • Internet and telemarketing scams peak before age 65 and target seniors living alone. Both scams lure seniors to use their debit or credit card to purchase bogus products or services such as low-cost health care products or inexpensive vacations or offer free prizes.
  • Theft and fraud by family members peak well after age 65 when seniors are lonely, more dependent upon others for their care or facing health challenges. Many have saved-up a “nest egg,” own their home and maintain excellent credit. This makes seniors a likely target for struggling family members to take full advantage.

Financial abuse often goes undetected

Many agencies and professional stand ill-equipped to deal with elder fraud cases. Overall, there is a general lack of resources dedicated to its prevention and prosecution. Experts note that financial abuse often overlaps with other crimes against seniors, such as neglect or physical and sexual assault. However, a lack of coordination between agencies further compounds the problem. Proper training of a cross section of professionals could aid in the detection of financial fraud. However, without the benefit of collective expertise many seniors will remain vulnerable to exploitation.

Under-reporting of financial abuse

Surprisingly, a family member is most likely to commit elder financial abuse than a stranger or professional. This makes it difficult for seniors to report due to their sense of loyalty or dependency to family values. In some cases, the senior may be isolated making financial abuse difficult for others to report suspected abuse. Furthermore, a senior with cognitive impairments, such as memory loss or symptoms of confusion may be unaware of their financial affairs.

Due to lack of detection and reporting most victims of financial abuse do not seek legal recourse. The fact is litigation can help seniors recoup their losses. In Part II of this series we will discuss signs and symptoms of elder financial abuse. If you have any questions on this blog or need information on other personal injury queries, please call the Law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath located in West Palm Beach at 1-800 4-RIGHTS (1-800- 474-4487) We welcome your call and look forward to helping you.

Defining Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice, sometimes referred to as medical negligence, occurs when a health care provider treats a patient in a manner that is below the professional standard of care and, as a result, the patient suffers harm. The “standard of care” is the level of care that a reasonably prudent health care professional, in the same field with similar training, would have provided in the same situation. Just because a doctor made a mistake or, a patient was unhappy with their care or the outcome, that doesn’t necessarily mean medical malpractice occurred.

Each medical malpractice case is unique and must be evaluated on its own facts and merits. There are certain elements our lawyers must evaluate before accepting your potential claim in order to be successful including, the maximum time that someone can wait before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Florida, the statute of limitations is two years which is shorter that the four year limitation period for most negligence claims. For your claim to have merit, your attorney must prove not only damages, but also liability and causation. Assuming your damages are serious enough to justify bringing a lawsuit, your lawyer must also determine if the treatment you received fell below the minimally acceptable standard of care and, that care caused you to suffer damage.

Under Florida Law, prior to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, your attorney must hire one or more physicians as expert witnesses, in the same field of medicine as the defendant, to establish that the negligent conduct was the actual cause of your injuries. In addition, Florida Law requires that each defendant must be notified of the intent to initiate litigation. This is known as the Ninety-Day Presuit Period. Occasionally, a defendant admits liability or makes a settlement offer however, most of the time the defendant rejects the claim. After the presuit and discovery process is completed, the complaint can be filed.

People are often surprised to learn that Florida doctors are allowed to practice medicine without medical malpractice insurance. A term known as “going bare”. What this means is that patients injured as a result of a physician’s negligence could potentially be left with little or no compensation for their damages, medical bills and lost wages. Convincing a jury that a doctor committed malpractice is difficult but collecting from an uninsured doctor is even more difficult due to asset protection.

Medical malpractice claims are complex from a medical, legal, and procedural aspect which is the reason you want to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 561-655-1990. The call is free and we look forward to helping.

By: Cynthia Mazzuto
Medical Malpractice, Paralegal
Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath