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Legal guardian, family more likely to financially abuse seniors

The golden years are supposed to be a time when Michigan seniors might travel, visit grandchildren and do other things they enjoy. Unfortunately, some elderly Americans are too busy dealing with financial abuse from the very people they trust to protect them.

According to a recent report, manipulation is one of the fastest growing areas of elder abuse. This includes theft from seniors committed by caregivers, those with legal guardianships, and telephone scams.

A survey conducted by MetLife Mature Market Institute in 2010 found that this type of elder abuse cost victims $3 billion. Approximately 34 percent of the theft and abuse was committed by friends, neighbors, caregivers, and family members of victims.

More often than not, this type of abuse occurs to people who have a mental illness, are suffering incapacity due to disability, or are otherwise unable to fight against such manipulation.

A news article details the case of a 91-year-old man who suffers from memory loss and is currently being cared for by his sister. The sister alleges that his 61-year-old niece and her 43-year-old boyfriend stole money from the elderly man by having him sign power of attorney to his niece. The defendants deny those claims but have since returned $42,000 of the disputed funds.

It is critical for senior citizens, and those of any age, to take steps to protect themselves before they become incapacitated. It can be important to have a durable power of attorney on file with someone who is trusted to take care of the finances, organized and ready to go before the person actually needs this assistance. It can actually a good idea to have more than one person fill this role in order to provide a type of check and balance. Lastly, it is wise to have duplicate copies of receipts, bank statements, and other financial documents sent to another knowledgeable, trustworthy party. This person can then monitor the accounts for suspicious activity.

Source: NYTimes.com, "Old, Infirm and at the Center of a Legal Struggle," Walecia Konrad, Nov. 13, 2012

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