Financial Abuse and the Elderly
 
Keep in mind, class – this is pretty close to the way researchable ideas begin.
 
I was trying to come up with an idea that related my profession (accounting) with my area of interest (gerontology). 
I was thinking of focusing my research idea on financial abuse of the elderly. 
I guess my first question is whether you think this is a decent topic? 
 
On the face of it, this topic "financial abuse of the elderly" seems to have plenty of merit to me.
With baby boomers approaching retirement in the next 5-7 years or so, general interest in elderly populations is only going to increase.
 
I’d suggest some initial probing of the internet. A Google search of that topic resulted in some ideas  (keep in mind this is the internet – which is undisciplined).
http://www.thestreet.com/funds/ericgillin/10023597.html  This web offering cites the office of Sen. John Breaux, chairman of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging. That website is here: http://aging.senate.gov/public/ and the new chairman is Senator Gordon Smith.
  http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=1048 this website offers some additional ideas, mostly about swindles and fraud prevention.
  http://www.state.de.us/attgen/fraud/medicaid/elderlyexploitation.htm from Delaware’s Attorney General’s office. 
So there is interest – and you can go deeper in this general way until you think you’ve exhausted the avenue.
 
Looking at Google’s Scholar at http://scholar.google.com/
And looking for both financial abuse of the elderly and financial exploitation of the elderly will result in some actual research that’s already been published.
  And many, many other options to explore
Next, I am exploring what direction to take this concept.  I have reviewed some information relating to this subject and I know that there has been some work done in this area, although I don't believe I have seen anything as of yet designed specifically for financial abuse, but rather elder abuse in general. 
 
Before we get too far along, we’d want to do a more disciplined search of the UA library’s catalogs:
 
My all time favorite place to explore the published literature is the Social Science Citation Index, so here we go: Searching financial abuse of the elderly gets us:
1. Reed K
When elders lose their cents: Financial abuse of the elderly 
CLINICS IN GERIATRIC MEDICINE 21 (2): 365+ MAY 2005
Times Cited: 0
  2. Malks B, Buckmaster J, Cunningham L
Combating elder financial abuse - A multi-disciplinary approach to a growing problem 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 15 (3-4): 55-70 2003
Times Cited: 0
  3. Betz BP, Nielsen EK, Wilber KH, et al.
The relationship between impaired executive functioning and financial abuse of the elderly 
GERONTOLOGIST 41: 334-334 Sp. Iss. 1 OCT 2001
Times Cited: 0
  4. Wilber KH, Reynolds SL  - this looks good
Introducing a framework for defining financial abuse of the elderly 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 8 (2): 61-80 1996
Times Cited: 6
  5. Langan J, Means R
Financial management and elderly people with dementia in the UK: As much a question of confusion as abuse? 
AGEING AND SOCIETY 16: 287-314 Part 3 MAY 1996
Times Cited: 5
  6. GORDON RM
FINANCIAL ABUSE OF THE ELDERLY AND STATE PROTECTIVE SERVICES - CHANGING STRATEGIES IN THE PENAL-WELFARE COMPLEX IN THE UNITED-STATES AND CANADA 
CRIME AND SOCIAL JUSTICE (26): 116-134 1986
Searching: financial exploitation of the elderly gets us:
1. Tueth MJ
Exposing financial exploitation of impaired elderly persons 
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRY 8 (2): 104-111 SPR 2000
Times Cited: 6
Let’s take a look at that Wilber KH, Reynolds SL study
Introducing a framework for defining financial abuse of the elderly 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 8 (2): 61-80 1996
It was cited 6 times and we also want to look at the citations the authors used.
 
Here’s the electronic record:
Full Record  
Previous RecordRecord 4 of 6 (Set #3) Next Record
Title: Introducing a framework for defining financial abuse of the elderly
Author(s): Wilber KH, Reynolds SL
Source: JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 8 (2): 61-80 1996
Document Type: Article
Language: English
Cited References: 23      Times Cited: 6       
Abstract: Although an extensive body of literature has developed over the last decade that focuses on elder abuse, little has been written specifically on financial abuse. Financial abuse of older persons remains difficult to detect and prosecute, in part, because it is poorly understood and ill-defined. The purpose of this article is to begin the task of specifically identifying older persons who have been subjected to financial abuse. To do this, we offer a framework for identifying abuse that includes: (1) characteristics of the older person that suggest vulnerability to abuse, (2) the nature of the relationship between the suspected wrongdoer and the older person, (3) the outcomes and interests served by the relationship, and (4) the type of influence used by the suspected wrongdoer. The interaction of these factors is described and analyzed to help better identify abusive situations.
Addresses: Wilber KH (reprint author), UNIV SO CALIF, ETHEL PERCY ANDRUS GERONTOL CTR, UNIV PK MC0191, LOS ANGELES, CA 90089 USA
Publisher: HAWORTH PRESS INC, 10 ALICE ST, BINGHAMTON, NY 13904-1580
Subject Category: FAMILY STUDIES; GERONTOLOGY
IDS Number: VU863
ISSN: 0894-6566


The 23 references are worth looking at in more detail – View record means you can access the abstract.  You’ll want to poke around and see what you can find. See the ones in my RED

 

Cited Author

Cited Work

Year

Volume

Page

Article
ID

View
Record 

PILLEMER KA

ELDER ABUSE CONFLICT

1986

 

 

 

 

REIN JE

GEORGE WASH LAW REV

1992

60

1818

 

View record

SABATINO C

8 ANN SOC STRUCT C S

1993

 

 

 

 

SALEND E

GERONTOLOGIST

1984

24

61

 

View record

SHIFERAW B

GERONTOLOGIST

Abstract: This study summarizes the outcome of all investigations of elder abuse conducted in Forsyth County, North Carolina, during a 3-year period ending December 1991. Of the 123 cases investigated, 23 were confirmed as elder abuse. There were no statistically significant differences in age, sex, race, living arrangements, mental status, mobility, or source of report between confirmed and unconfirmed cases. Unconfirmed compared to confirmed cases were more likely to reside in a nursing home and/or to be ill. The most frequently substantiated charge was exploitation of resources (46%). Only 3% of charges of physical abuse were substantiated. Among confirmed cases, 70% were offered and accepted protective services.

1994

34

123

 

View record

STIEGEL L

RECOMMENDED GUIDELIN

1995

 

 

 

 

TATARA T

J ELDER ABUSE NEGL

1993

5

35

 

 

WILBER KW

GERONTOLOGIST

1995

35

168

 

 

WILBER KW

PROTECTING JUDGMENT

1990

 

89

 

 

WOLF RS

GERONTOLOGIST

1994

34

126

 

View record

WOLF RS

HELPING ELDERLY VICT

1989

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Note also the number of times the authors were cited themselves:

1. Kemp BJ, Mosqueda LA
Elder financial abuse: An evaluation framework and supporting evidence 
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN GERIATRICS SOCIETY 53 (7): 1123-1127 JUL 2005
Times Cited: 0  2. Rabiner DJ, Brown D, O'Keeffe J
Financial exploitation of older persons: Policy issues and recommendations for addressing them 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 16 (1): 65-84 2004
Times Cited: 1  3. Rabiner DJ, O'Keeffe J, Brown D
A conceptual framework of financial exploitation of older persons 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 16 (2): 53-73 2004
Times Cited: 0  4. Bond JB, Cuddy R, Dixon GL, et al.
The financial abuse of mentally incompetent older adults: A Canadian study 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 11 (4): 23-38 1999
Times Cited: 0  5. Tueth MJ
Exposing financial exploitation of impaired elderly persons 
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRY 8 (2): 104-111 SPR 2000
Times Cited: 6  6. Choi NG, Kulick DB, Mayer J
Financial exploitation of elders: Analysis of risk factors based on county adult protective services data 
JOURNAL OF ELDER ABUSE & NEGLECT 10 (3-4): 39-62 1999
Times Cited: 2

I’m beginning to believe this is a relatively new topic and something to which you can make a contribution.  The first thing to do is read the Journal of Elder Abuse and get a list of researchers working on this idea.  They will all have email addresses, so as soon as you’ve read some of their research, you can communicate with them some.

Usually when an elder is being abused financially, they are also experiencing another form of abuse.  I am asking for some guidance as to what direction to take this idea.  And that is what these limited searches are showing me too.   Financial abuse seems to be among the litany of troubles the elderly sometimes find themselves in.
For example,

I’d want to try to create a tool for assessment, or some way to measure financial safety (safety, not well-being) and then tentatively plan for implementation in a programmatic way. 

First the assessment tool or measure - Good ole Senator Breaux had a list of starting concepts:

You can also add some, depending on what you find in your library searches, like Increases of risk (illness, disability, etc.)
Or prevention (limits on telephone service, protections from intrusion, I’m just brainstorming here). You’ll want to construct a measure based on ideas like this

Also check out the last citation by 6. Choi NG, Kulick DB, Mayer J – Their Abstract says:
While all types of elder abuse and neglect are serious problems affecting thousands of vulnerable elders, financial exploitation has especially serious implications for the victims' economic well-being and quality of life, because it may deprive the victims of their life savings and assets and thus their economic foundation for independence. In this study, data from the case files of a county adult protective services program were analyzed to identify risk factors associated with financial exploitation of and mismanagement by elders. The elders who were financially exploited were, on average, in their late seventies and tended to be cognitively impaired. We also found that owner-occupant elders were especially vulnerable to exploitation and that financial mismanagement and exploitation often occurred together. Approximately 60% of the perpetrators were relatives of the elderly victims, mostly their adult children, and the rest of the perpetrators were not related to the victims. Implications for interventions include case management for frail, cognitively impaired elders; preventive educational programs; and ongoing collaboration among adult protective services, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies.

You want to read this study and see what you think of their suggestions.
The first idea – which is where you are now (before implementing a measure, you need to define it.  Remember the goals of science are to describe explain and predict. You are at the first one:

Description and definition.
Perhaps a first step is to critically and completely review the literature to see what social science really knows about the topic.  That, in itself is worthy of doing.

Then: If you were going to construct a measure – first thing is to make a list of every possible question you could ask someone (an actual elderly person, or a caregiver or main support person of an elderly person) around ideas like :

 Types of Financial Exploitation
• Telemarketing Fraud
• Sweepstakes Fraud
• Charities Fraud
• Contractor/Home Repair Fraud
• Investment Fraud
• Confidence Schemes
• Identity Theft, Forgery and Credit Card Fraud
• Marriage for Profit
• Exploitation by Durable Power of Attorney
• Misuse of Joint Bank/Brokerage Accounts

 

Good Financial Practices
• Use Direct Deposit for checks
• Do not sign ‘blank’ checks
• Ask a trusted friend, financial advisor or attorney to review any agreement to transfer money or property TO ANYONE – even a family member
• Check bank and other financial statements carefully each month for signs of unauthorized withdrawals
• Do not give out your Social Security or ATM pin number

Once you start working on a measure of financial abuse of the elderly, you’ll want to test it out.
This can be done in several ways.

 -ddw