The CDC declares senior financial abuse a public health crisis


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is known for its fight against major diseases. Now, it’s turning its attention to another public health concern: widespread senior financial abuse.

In a word, the increasing financial abuse of seniors is epidemic–though unlike an outbreak of disease, there isn’t any definitive strategy to contain and eradicate it. Up until now, there hasn’t even been a clear-cut definition of what constitutes senior financial abuse.

But this kind of exploitation ultimately has serious health ramifications for its victims, forcing the CDC to formally declare senior financial abuse a danger to public health:

“The need to address financial fraud and exploitation has not been a traditional area for public health focus, but increasingly, the potentially devastating effect–on physical, mental, and financial well-being–is being recognized. In many cases, exploitation occurs at the hands of family members or caregivers, creating further devastation for the individual being exploited.”

The CDC pays particular attention to seniors experiencing some form of cognitive decline or impairment–these people are heavily at risk for financial abuse at the hands of someone they trust.

Among the far-reaching effects of financial exploitation are:

Emotional and psychological damage: stress, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear, shame, anger, mistrust, diminished self-value.

Financial damage: a victim can lose the ability to afford his home, medication, adequate nutrition, therapy and medical treatments, and even become unable to afford to hire legal counsel or assistance should he choose to pursue recourse against his abuser.

Physical damage: lack of access to vital health services, good nutrition, and a comfortable home coupled with a constant state of psychological turmoil translate into poor physical health quickly–even young people with these problems can develop serious chronic health problems, putting themselves at risk for heart attacks, stroke, memory-related illness, diabetes, stomach ulcers and digestive disease, high susceptibility to colds, flus, and other viruses, insomnia, and chronic body pain.

In taking the first major steps to define and recognize senior exploitation as a very real health concern, the CDC hopes to begin measuring both its spread and the impact it has on our society, ultimately taking action to put a stop to it.

The CDC joins the effort of medical professionals and watchdog organizations already fighting for stronger regulations holding financial institutions legally accountable when red flags of financial abuse are present, and preventing them from putting their own interests ahead of their senior clients.

But experts say working toward effective fraud monitoring is only half the battle. Families are the first line of defense for their senior members–the most effective layer of protection rests with children and grandchildren who are active in their senior family members’ lives and learn to recognize the warning signs before the exploitation goes further. Judith Shaw, Maine’s securities administrator stresses in a recent Politico article:


“If my great-grandparents needed something they could turn to my grandparents, or my parents, or my aunts and uncles. Those types of communities are becoming more and more rare. That social isolation contributes to making our population more vulnerable… If I had one wish, it would be that we all call our parents at least as frequently as the scam artists do.”

One Comment

  1. We the people have paid into social security all our lives so we would have something to protect
    us financialky when we retire . We put the money there. If the government took it … they took something that did not belong to them. It’s called STEALING


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