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Originally published at: lincolnnewsmessenger.com

Understanding issues to help prevent elder abuse

Imagine the next time you have a sore throat your doctor only examines your throat, and nothing else. You'd get a new doctor right away, wouldn't you?

But people selling seniors do that all the time. They may be vaguely aware of the forces affecting seniors - health, financial, social and psychological - but in working with seniors, they think they can deal with just one of those areas to the exclusion of the others. After all, why would someone selling a financial product care about a senior's social situation? Or why would someone selling real estate care about a senior's health? What's wrong with taking a narrow approach to seniors?

The problem is a narrow approach leaves seniors wide open to abuse. Things that seem completely disconnected turn out to be thoroughly intertwined. A good example of that is the growing problem of unscrupulous persons preying on seniors to exploit them financially. Financial exploitation of seniors is a national disgrace. Seniors from age 62 to 75 old years fear financial exploitation more than health crises or terrorism. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates nearly one out of every three elder abuse cases involves financial exploitation. And AARP says seniors are the targets of 40 percent of all financial scams.

But here's the really important point: Financial exploitation is far more than a matter of money.

It's a social issue. The more isolated a senior, the more vulnerable we are to being scammed or misled. One technique scammers use is to separate a senior from the senior's friends and family. If a senior hesitates to agree to something without talking to others, the scammer will try to bully the senior by saying something like, "Aren't you allowed to make your own decisions?"

It's a psychological issue. The primary goal of a senior is to remain independent. The unscrupulous operator will use that desire to remain independent to talk a senior into investing something that promises high returns and guaranteed income - when neither is assured.

It's a planning issue. The best deterrent to financial exploitation is financial planning. If a senior has taken advantage of good advice to plan for retirement, that senior is less vulnerable to the appeals of the scammer. Get a second opinion!

It's a self-consciousness issue. Seniors will sometimes say they understand what they're signing, or they won't take the time to ask the right questions because they think that might suggest they're not mentally sharp. They allow their pride to prevail over their prudence. Question everything!

The threat of being taken advantage of financially is just one of the challenges seniors face. Others, while not perhaps as dramatic or potentially devastating are equally complex - and require the same understanding of the inseparable nature of seniors' health, financial and social issues. Only by understanding all of those forces and how they work together can professionals successfully match the products and services they offer to the needs of their senior clients.

- Tom Rafferty can be contacted at (916) 781-3360 or e-mailed at t_raf@msn.com. Put Lincoln News as the



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