I had the pleasure of attending last week’s Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners’ conference, titled “Elder Abuse and Manners of Protecting the Elderly”. It focused on financial abuse which is the most common form of elder abuse. It provided an excellent overview with a panel discussion presented and moderated by lawyers (Craig Vander Zee, Kim Whaley and Albert Oosterhoff), the Toronto Police Vulnerable Persons Coordinator (PC Jason Peddle) and the Ombudsperson for Banking Services and Investments (Sarah Bradley). I learnt a lot- primarily about what happens after the (alleged) offence occurs from the legal perspective both from the civil and criminal courts. Ms. Bradley highlighted the investigation and dispute resolution mechanism when a financial institution/investment firm is involved and PC Peddle shared the police process/response after receiving a call of complaint.
What was missing for me was more information on how to prevent financial abuse, especially when the primary abuser is family or the older person’s attorney for finance. It is not that the information was missed or omitted but rather I am not sure it exists at all. Can this crime can be prevented before there is a victim? The incidents vary widely- from the younger caregiver and older (rich) client; the new internet love interest who wants to move in and be added to the bank accounts; the neighbor who assists and buys the older person’s groceries (as well as their own) to the son in law who wants to invest all of your money and then some…..
My fellow bloggers and I have written previously on this topic the repeated question is asking what can be done to prevent financial abuse? Awareness and education have been the key messages to date in terms of preventative measures, but sadly it may not be enough. We know these crimes are under reported, often due to shame and stigma felt by the older victim. Many times we may have a suspicion but without the theft occurring the authorities are unable to get involved. Do you think there are ways that this abuse can be stopped before there is a victim?
I would love to hear your suggestions and here are few to get us started:
– Attorney workshops on what it means to be an attorney for property and personal care
– Provincial POA registry
– Use of consistent best practices within the financial and trust institutions
– Citizen led (and police supported) watch group that can say to possible perpetrators that ’we have eyes on you’ and
– Easier way to investigate potential scammers
Here’s hoping we can make a difference……