“…many seniors are ashamed of what family members or others might be doing to them. They are also fearful of repercussions if they were to report any wrongdoing.”
When I was 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, living on small pensions and with no other 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 do such a foolish thing. Or would she?
As seniors become vulnerable, sick or forgetful, they can easily fall victim to this crime.
According to the website seniors.gc.ca, “Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse against seniors and 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.”1
In Canada, thousands of dollars are being invested in awareness literature, telephone help lines, television advertisements and online information to help prevent the abuse of seniors. However, many seniors are ashamed of what family members or others might be doing to them. They are also fearful of repercussions if they were to report any wrongdoing.
Christians can easily become victims of this crime, as my opening story supports. Paul warned 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” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
According to Employment and Social Development Canada, seniors make up the fastest growing age group in Canada.2 So the problem will only increase. There is also tension between the younger and older generations with regard to employment. While many seniors continue working beyond age 65, young graduates face significant barriers to starting their careers. The need or desire for money can be the tension that causes an otherwise honest individual to take desperate steps to acquire 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” (1 Timothy 5:1-2, 8).
We need to be vigilant and aware of the signs of financial abuse of seniors. The following checklists are taken from the website: http://www.seniors.gc.ca/eng/pie/eaa/financial.shtml, and are reproduced with permission.
Review this list for possible signs of financial abuse:
- I have felt pressured into giving away money or purchasing things that I do not want or need.
- Someone has taken my money or cashed my cheques without my permission.
- Someone frequently borrows money from me and doesn't repay it.
- I have noticed withdrawals from my bank account or charges to my credit card that I cannot explain.
- I have received overdue bills that I thought were paid.
- Someone has prevented me from making my own financial decisions or accessing my money.
- Someone has not managed my finances as we agreed.
- I have felt forced into changing my will or signing legal documents that I don't fully understand.
- I have felt pressured into sharing my home or car without fair compensation.
Review this list for ways to help protect yourself:
- Keep your financial and personal information in a safe place.
- Keep track of your accounts and legal documents.
- Keep a record of financial transactions and changes to legal documents.
- Read contracts and other documents carefully.
- Tell someone if you think you are experiencing financial abuse: a friend, family member, health care or social services professional, legal or financial advisor, or member of your faith community or local authorities.
- For major decisions involving your home or other property, get your own professional legal advice before signing any documents.
- Keep in touch with a variety of friends and family so you don't become isolated.
Carol Ford owns a consulting business specializing in career development and personality differences. She attends Cedarview Community Church in Newmarket, ON.
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This article appears in the March/April 2015 issue of testimony.
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