HINTS FOR PREVENTION
Canadians can help prevent financial abuse of seniors by:
• Talking about financial matters with aging parents and friends.
• Attending a local WEAAD event or seminar to highlight the issue with others.
• Learning to recognize and avoid investment scams. Visit the CSA website to find important information and helpful resources about fraud prevention.
• Taking time to investigate every investment opportunity or sales pitch as well as the person promoting the investment before handing over money. If unsure about an investment, consider seeking out independent, third-party advice.
• Reporting investment fraud to their provincial or territorial securities regulator. Reporting potential scams may help prevent other seniors from becoming victims of investment fraud.
– Courtesy of Alberta Securities Commission
Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council – albertaelderabuse.ca/getting-help/st-albert-and-area
Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse – cnpea.ca
Stop Abuse in Families – stopabuse.ca
As a senior, do you feel confident making financial decisions for yourself? Do you check your bank statements? Do you talk about your finances with your friends and family? Are you recently independent and have just started to take care of your own finances? If you felt like you had been taken advantage of financially, would you report it, even if it meant reporting a family member?
These are all questions whose answers might indicate a low financial literacy and signs of vulnerability to being abused financially. As a greater and greater percentage of the population reaches seniorhood, all people need to become more and more aware of all of the different forms of elder abuse, explained Susan Soprovich, the senior adviser of investor education with the Alberta Securities Commission.
“We usually ask three financial literacy questions (when we do these surveys) and it’s surprising how many people can't answer them: what is simple compound interest, things like that,” she said.
She suggested that the problem of financial illiteracy starts early, but that it’s never too late to start learning. One senior illustrated that point to her recently.
“She said, ‘Some of us may not know because of our changes in life, and maybe we haven't dealt with our finances before, but they don't teach it to the young kids today, either.’ They don't know how to deal with money management or budgeting, don't understand the difference between a TFSA and an RSP and RESP.”
Unfortunately, seniors are a growing and vulnerable population with little supportive legislation that protects them specifically, explained Areni Kelleppan, the executive director with St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF).
“We have legislation for the protection of children but not seniors who may develop cognitive impairments or may become dependent on relatives, friends, neighbours, etc. or they may be alone and can be prey to people who may defraud them,” she began.
“This population is especially unlikely to speak out or reach for help themselves for fear (either retaliation from an abuser or that they may lose their independence if they speak out), shame, and family dynamics (the threat of losing access to their grandchildren, or they will never report that it's their grandchild or their own child who is abusing them).”
“Maybe you have a broker or someone trying to tell you that you should be putting your money here, here and here. It's especially a concern for seniors because as you're getting into retirement, and once you retire, you have a limited amount of money. You've got your nest egg we’ll call it and if you're getting bad advice, and you don't really understand the financial aspect of it, you have less time to recover. It hits people financially but there's also a huge emotional and mental burden that comes along with that if either you're scammed right by somebody, whether it's a family member or friend, a congregation member, someone who comes through a group that you're with, or whether it's just because you've taken bad investment advice from someone who does not have your best interest in mind,” Soprovich continued.
Elder abuse is not often done with the intent to be nefarious and malicious, Kelleppan added, noting that it actually represents a relatively small percentage of what she sees through SAIF and its Elder Abuse Response program. More often, it happens through an unfortunate yet organic series of steps.
“Instead, it's often loved ones who find they have no options to care for an ailing senior: they are stressed, burned out, have no supports to help them find adequate or affordable care for a senior and so 'make do'. This is particularly a growing concern for those caring for seniors with dementia or other cognitive impairments. The kind of care required is often out of reach for many families. And for many seniors themselves – they are struggling with losing their own independence or fear losing their independence.”