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When elder relatives get financially abused, caregivers struggle to keep them afloat

Caring for a loved one comes in many forms, and so does the cost.

When older Americans get financially abused, caregivers suffer just as much — to the tune of $36,000, on average, to get elderly relatives out of their financial binds, Allianz Life Insurance Company says.

This ripple effect isn’t anything new. Families and caregivers have been bearing the brunt of financially abused elders for some time, even though research into it is only a few years old. Our older family members are notoriously popular targets of a variety of different scams; from ID theft to bank account hacks to downright property deeds. They’re often some combination of lonely, trusting, ignorant of technology’s pitfalls and forgetful — and they have money. They’re ideal marks.

When an older American gets abused financially; the cost of caring for that relative goes up to $8,400 a year in both cash and noncash support. For elderly people who haven’t been financially abused, that figure is around $5,400 — a $3,000 difference.

“As America’s population ages, more people will be caregivers,” says Allianz Life president and CEO Walter White. “Unfortunately, these caregivers will be at risk of experiencing the negative effects of elder financial abuse perpetrated against the person they’re caring for. While a focus on protecting seniors from financial exploitation is vital; we also need to provide resources to caregivers who increasingly will become collateral victims of the elder abuse.”

The financial burden of caregivers

With the best of intentions, caregivers are constantly looking out for their older family members; and financial assistance is part of that aid. But caregivers suffer greatly emotionally, physically, and financially when their elderly relatives are scammed. Many times, those feelings are all intertwined.

Two-thirds of active caregivers said the cost of providing care is having a significant effect on their finances. They worry about having enough money to retire, Allianz says. “Nearly 80 percent of caregivers responsible for a past victim indicated concern about the effect caregiving is having on both their current finances and their retirement savings.”

As the financial burden takes its toll on caregivers, not everyone is turning down extra cash if it comes up. Allianz says 81 percent of caregivers accept money from those they care for if money is offered. 66 percent reimburse themselves for expenses related to their caregiving duties.

Thankfully, caregivers are talking to their elderly loved ones about repercussions of being financially abused. Seven in 10 caregivers are having difficult but necessary conversations about being scammed; how to avoid it, and how what happens to one has a long-lasting effect on others.

As our older relatives are being attacked so much more than other groups, it’s important to pay attention to how they are being scammed. Medical records are being stolen every day, and older Americans are a big target of these data breeches. But it’s not the only major scam they’re facing: billions of dollars of tax fraud is happening, with older Americans getting hit as well. And one thing that will hurt us all: how we’re going to get hacked this year, no matter what age group we fall into.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


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