Would your adult children rip you off?

Mixson says parents are often hesitant to admit a child might not be up to the task, and parents often feel a child's failing is their own fault and continue to shoulder a filial responsibility for their actions.

"I once had an elderly client tell me that she didn't want anything done about her son, who had pushed her down the stairs, because if he wasn't allowed to live with her, 'It was winter and he'd be living under a bridge,'" says Mixson.

Women frequently targeted

Although anyone can fall victim to elder financial abuse, the most likely candidates are female. Women are targeted more often due to their biology and demography, says Dr. Pamela Teaster, director of the Graduate Center for Gerontology, University of Kentucky, and one of the authors of the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse.

"Women still tend to live seven years longer than their male counterparts," Teaster says.

Making plans

Planning for the future involves more than simply making a will or crunching the numbers to make sure there's enough income on which to live. It's also a time to preplan for the eventuality that someone else will have to take over the checkbook.

Kevin Schwartz, of the California-based law firm Schwartz & Schwartz, says, "Many people still have that feeling of, 'Well, it will never happen to me ... my children get along great and will take care of me if and when I need it. I certainly have nothing to worry about.'"

Schwartz says that when planning for financial security, one should not only choose someone who is "good with money," but someone who is "good with other people's money."

Ideally, these issues should be addressed with an attorney during estate planning, but even seniors with tiny incomes and small estates can fall victim to predatory relatives. For them, the best alternative would be to avoid becoming isolated and ask others outside the family to check on their welfare.

"Don't allow one family member to alienate you from the rest of the family," says Mixson. "If you can't leave your home, then find ways to bring different people into your home. Always realize that elder (financial) abuse can happen to you."


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