Guest Blog Post: Is it Financial Abuse?  Or is it Fraud? What Seniors Need to Know

By Linda Flemming, Waterloo Region Committee on Elder Abuse

Old age is said to be a time for honour, dignity and respect, but sadly, abuse of older adults does occur. On June 15th, the world recognized World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Luther Village on the Park hosted the Waterloo Region Committee on Elder Abuse for a Community Forum on Financial Abuse.

To start the Forum, the Harmony Interactive Theatre Troupe acted out a real life drama demonstrating a potential financial abuse situation by a family member. The uniqueness of this kind of drama is that after it has been played out, the audience gets the opportunity to talk to the characters on the stage, and let them know how they felt about what they saw. Many emotions come to the surface such as anger, surprise, and outrage, which allows for a great opportunity to delve into this issue of elder abuse.

Next, Kate Martinello from the Waterloo Region Elder Abuse Response Team provided a short presentation on how to identify the signs of elder abuse, and what we can do if we suspect it may be happening. We are very fortunate in this Region to have the partnership of a nurse and a police officer to investigate these potential allegations. There are many types of Elder Abuse, which by definition is “the mistreatment of an elderly person by someone on whom they should be able to rely on: a spouse, an adult child, some other family member, a friend, or paid caregiver.”  Financial Abuse is one of the more common forms of abuse. Often it may difficult to distinguish between financial abuse, in which a person of trust has been misusing an elder’s financial resources, or fraud, which is a criminal offense. Often seniors may be targeted because they are vulnerable, but fraud and scams can happen to anyone. They are illegal activities of trying to use or take money from people with what appears to be good intent or opportunity to make money, but then the money is taken. 

A panel of experts, in their financial specialities, made up the second part of the forum. A banking specialist, a lawyer, and police officer from the Fraud Department all provided key points, in order to provide awareness for seniors, or anyone, when it comes to managing their financial affairs.  Some of those key points included the importance of having a power of attorney appointed by you (make sure it is someone you rely on and trust), making sure you have your bank accounts in order and have it in writing who may access your accounts, never giving any banking information over the phone or computer, and knowing that if it is too good to be true, it likely is a scam.  These are only a few of the touch points, but it was a good starting point, to start thinking about how to ensure your financial affairs are in order and secured.

The room was filled with seniors and Community Partners, and we hope that this knowledge helped everyone there know how to identify what might be financial abuse versus fraud, and if so, who they might call for assistance.

Below are some helpful numbers to call if you suspect Elder Abuse:

Elder Abuse Response Team Waterloo:  519-579-4607

Waterloo Region Police Services: 519-653-7700

Community Care Access Centre: 519-748-2222

For more information on Luther Village on the Park’s Elder Abuse policy, please contact Joy Hancock, Wellness Coordinator, at 519-783-3710 x 2009.