Thursday, February 22, 2018

Could a senior in your church be experiencing financial elder abuse? By Carol Ford

(This article was printed in Testimony Magazine March/April 2015

 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."[i]

As a child I remember my mother pointing to a couple in our church and whispering their sad story in my ear. This elderly couple had given all their savings to their son and his wife as a down payment on a home, with the promise to the parents that they would have a place to live. However, once the deal was sealed, the parents were turned out of their son’s home. This left the elderly couple almost destitute and living on small pensions with no savings for backup. I could tell that the whole affair alarmed and frightened my mother. It was also evident, with the retelling of this story, that she would never foolishly do such a thing. Or would she?

As seniors become vulnerable, sick or forgetful, they can easily fall victim to this crime.
Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse against seniors in Canada and it frequently goes unreported. Financial abuse includes all forms of manipulation or exploitation of someone else’s money. It includes using older adults’ money or property dishonestly, or failing to use older adults’ assets for their own welfare. [ii]

In Canada, thousands of dollars are being invested into awareness literature, telephone help lines, television advertisements and on-line information to help prevent elder abuse. However, many seniors are ashamed of what family members or others might be doing to them.  They also are fearful of the results if they were to report any wrongdoing.[iii]
Christians can easily become victims of this crime, as my above story supports. Paul warns Timothy, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”[iv]
According to Employment and Social Development Canada, seniors make up the fastest growing age group in Canada.[v] So the problem will only increase. There is also tension between the younger and older generations with regard to employment. Seniors continue working beyond age 65 while younger graduates are facing barriers to starting their careers.[vi] The need and desire for money has historically been the tension that can cause otherwise honest individuals to take desperate steps in acquiring it.
The Bible tells us we have an obligation to protect and honour our elderly, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity...Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” [vii]
We need to be vigilant and aware of the signs of financial elder abuse. Here are some indicators:
  • The senior feels pressured into giving away money
  • Money is taken from the bank account or cheques are cashed without their permission 
  • Money is borrowed but not repaid
  • The senior is pressured into changing a will or signing a legal document that they don’t understand
The following website provides a fuller list of indicators and ideas for prevention:

[i] Philippians 2:4 New International Version (NIV)

[iv] 2 Timothy 3:1-5 New International Version (NIV)
[vii] 1 Timothy 5:1-2, 8

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