At-Large Council member Anita Bonds has reintroduced legislation to combat elder abuse, a growing problem that’s affected District residents and seniors around the nation.
The Elder Abuse Response Team Act of 2018 was reintroduced to establish the District of Columbia Elder Abuse Response Team (EART), a partnership of public and private agencies that will coordinate a high-quality, multidisciplinary, victim-centered response to elder abuse.
The legislation complements Bonds’ 2015 bill, titled the Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults Amendment Act, which assists seniors in obtaining quality living without fear of financial exploitation or abuse.
The bill’s reintroduction also follows the passage of the District of Columbia Department on Aging and Community Living Amendment Act of 2018, which Bonds introduced to elevate the District of Columbia Office on Aging to the status of “department.”
Statistics from 2018 revealed that one in five Americans age 65 or older have been affected by elder financial abuse and two-thirds of these crimes are committed by family members, friends and trusted associates.
Also in 2018, District officials took additional steps toward helping financial advisors protect their senior citizen clients from fraud with the approval of the Senior Safe Act that encourages advisors and their firms to report the financial exploitation of senior citizen clients by protecting advisors from liability and the violation of privacy laws.
Last year officials from Wells Fargo issued reminders that remedies to financial elder abuse include simply being aware.
Wells Fargo shared the results of its 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey that asked older residents about the financial issues they’re facing.
The also released an Elder Financial Abuse Protect Guide to outline steps on how seniors can protect themselves.
“When seniors don’t take intentional steps to plan for the longevity of their later years, they are posing themselves a greater threat,” John Allen, Wells Fargo’s DC Region Bank president, said at the time. “The question isn’t ‘will I ever be targeted,’ it is ‘when.’ Which should then be followed by, ‘Am I prepared to stop it?’”
With outside data revealing that the elder population is now the fasting growing in the United States — as baby boomers turn 65 at a rate of 10,000 a day — seniors and their caretakers must recognize the impending threat, Allen said.
In its Elder Financial Abuse Protect Guide, Wells Fargo suggested several actions seniors can take to protect themselves, including talking with trustworthy family members about financial plans; update and have in place legal documents such wills, advance health care directives and powers of attorney; sign up for direct deposit; do annual credit report checks; add automatic bill pay to accounts and automatic alerts of large transactions sent to a trustworthy individual while also keeping checks and credit cards locked away.
Wells Fargo officials also suggest seniors avoid isolation through social activities.
Officials said family members should keep vigilant by looking for red flags such as sudden, atypical, or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers, or disbursements; and abrupt or unexplained changes to legal documents.
Loved ones should also look for other signs such as unpaid utility bills, confusion about accounts and relationships with new “best friends” and “sweethearts,” disheveled appearance, forgetfulness, and adjustments to normal routine.
“Elder abuse can rob older adults of their independence and ability to age with dignity in their community,” said AARP Steve Gardner of AARP. “AARP is committed to strengthening the Older Adults Protective Services Act to provide additional protections against crimes targeting vulnerable older adults, including financial exploitation.”
Anyone can report elder abuse by calling the 24-hour statewide elder abuse hotline at 1-800-490 8505, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging and state law protects those who report suspected abuse from retaliation and civil or criminal liability. All calls are free and confidential, officials said.