The Elder Blog

by Janice Wallace


Financial Elder Abuse ???

04/18/2012 10:51 PM

"Mom has a heart of gold. She would help anyone who asked for help."  What a wonderful thing for a son to say about his mom. What a great legacy to her family.

The problem? Mom's charitable contributions were draining her budget. It wasn't until her son started managing her money that he realized that she was overdoing her donations.

Is it just me or have you noticed that seniors seem to be the target for repeated requests for donations? The son (my client) was shocked at the amount of solicitations that his mother was receiving daily by phone and in the mail. I was shocked too, when I started handling my dad's mail when he was ill. As I opened his mail every day over the course of a month, I became more and more angry at how many times, he was solicited by various charities.

These were legitmate charities but I still felt that their repeated calls for money were bordering on financial elder abuse. How many seniors feel obligated to respond with a donation when they received a small gift in the mail? How many seniors don't remember that they had just made a contribution last month when they receive a new request?

Just to be clear, I am not talking about scams which are clearly financial elder abuse where criminals prey on seniors but big name organizations that serve veterans, the handicapped and others. After you follow the mail for a while, it's also clear that mailing lists are being sold.

My dad was budget conscious and mentally clear. The amounts he donated were within his budget.  I'm thinking we are the lucky ones.  

I know it can be hard to talk about money issues. I'd suggest that you have regular conversations with your family member talking about your charitable contribution strategy and excessive solicitations that come your way to open the door to finding out who is solicting them and how much they are contributing.  If your family member doesn't object, quickly glance through the incoming mail to gauge how many requests are coming in.

If your family member is having any issues with memory loss be particularly tuned in to this issue. They might be donating in excess of their budget or not remembering when they last contributed.

What do you think? Are repeated requests for charitable donations are form of financial elder abuse?

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