Elder abuse increasingly over money

Stuff.co.nz 10 February 2014
Authorities are warning elderly people to be on guard against “caregivers” ripping them off.

A rise in the number of lonely and sick elderly Kiwis being cared for in their own homes has laid fertile ground for financial abusers posing as caregivers, cleaners or gardeners, elder specialists Age Concern say.

Increasingly, caregivers were being paid to care for the elderly at home and “because they spend a lot of time with these people, they become like companions and then the door is open for grooming”, family lawyer Patricia Wardill said. “It’s like a breach of trust really, because the elderly person tends to transfer their affections on to the person who is paying them attention.”

National Age Concern figures show reported referrals of financial elder abuse almost doubled from 1100 in the 2010/11 financial year to about 2000 in 2012/13. Financial elder abuse was usually committed by family members, with about 75 per cent of reported cases being linked to relatives, Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said.

However, with more elderly people being cared for at home by strangers, Age Concern was aware of a trend of predatory financial abuse by non-family members.

“That could be people grooming the elderly for money, getting put into their will or moving in with them and using their finances to fund their own lives,” he said. “It happens a lot.