Medical pros on the front line in fight against financial abuse of seniors

Doctors, nurses say they can play a part but financial advisers have key role

Jun 12, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

By Liz Skinner

Medical professionals are finding themselves at center stage in the fight against elder financial abuse and they are ready to help.

About 59% of doctors and nurses think cognitive impairment makes seniors vulnerable to financial exploitation “very often” and 33% say such exploitation happens “somewhat often,” according to a national online survey of 603 medical professionals.

Nearly 80% of the medical professionals said they believed they could help fight elderly financial fraud if they were trained to recognize and report the warning signs of such exploitation. Even more, 83%, said they are very or somewhat willing to refer an elderly patient who may be the victim of investment fraud to someone who could help them with their financial affairs, or to the proper authorities, the survey found.

“Doctors and nurses must play an important front-line role if we are going to do a better job of spotting older Americans who have been or are being victimized by investment fraud and other financial exploitation,” said Don Blandin, chief executive of Investor Protection Trust.

About 35% of older Americans already have mild cognitive impairment or full dementia, said Dr. Robert Roush, director of the Texas Consortium Geriatric Education Center.

Dr. Roush headed up a pilot test in Texas that trained doctors and other medical professionals to identify and report financial abuse in their patients. The education program is spreading across the country.

“Clinicians receive this very well and are interested in what the investor education specialists are telling them,” he said.

Financial advisers are increasingly reporting concerns about mental impairment in their clients, said Mr. Blandin.

MarketPsych LLC has developed a system that can help financial advisers identify when someone may be starting to suffer from impairment. It recommends that advisers review certain factors each year for clients over 65 — earlier for those with dementia in their family history.

Its checklist asks whether the client has had any memory problems, any drastic personality changes, increased trouble with simple calculations or an inability to recognize familiar people or places.

Financial adviser J. David Lewis has clients sign a “recommendations report” during one of their early meetings with him. The report notes the people with whom he can communicate about the client's financial matters.

Mr. Lewis also regularly asks his aging clients to allow him to send their children copies of their quarterly statements to keep them briefed on their financial situation.

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