Financial Elder Abuse: Can You Do the Math?

I received a letter with an AARP logo informing that I may have sewer line issues and that I should contact a particular company to investigate or I might be personally liable for damage to my sewer line and to the homes of my neighbors. The reality is that I have a well and septic and no sewer system. Letter tossed.

You might be amazed to know that many older adults fall for these scam letters. Physical and mental health, and dependency on others are factors that increase the likelihood of financial abuse and related mistreatment.

Research indicates that many variables affect the ability of an older adult to succumb to financial abuse or making a poor medical decision. One variable is a decline in arithmetic skills. Another variable is specific to the concept of “numeracy” Numeracy is different from adding or subtracting numbers. Numeracy relates to mental engagement, comprehension, and the ability to use numbers or math skills to make a decision. Numeracy also involves the ability to gauge probability that relates not only to financial but to medical decision making.

It is important for older adults to utilize the assistance of family members or professionals when managing finances, completing financial transactions, or responding to financial mail becomes challenging. I have personally known older adults who wrote checks emptying their bank accounts to scams promising more money, ownership of land in a foreign country, or funds required to claim a lottery.

Evaluation of financial information requires deliberate reasoning and decision making skills.

It is never too early to consider appointing a financial or medical power of attorney to assist with these decisions when aging occurs and reasoning and decision making skills become faulty. Protect yourself and your loved ones from financial exploitation and from making poor medical decisions. If you or a loved one are seeking information related to aspects of daily care, my book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected may be found at


Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA. Pamela may be reached at 303-810-1816 or at