Elder Abuse Protections: Where Does Your State Fall On This List?

WalletHub’s annual report highlights how each state is protecting elders against abuse, including financial abuse as scammers increasingly target this vulnerable population.

Elder Abuse Protections: Where Does Your State Fall On This List?

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An often-forgotten population is the elderly. Like children, many older people rely on others to provide them with basic needs, leaving the potential for physical, emotional, and financial abuse.

It is estimated that at least one in 10 Americans over the age of 65 will experience some form of elder abuse in a given year. While 60% of elder abuse is committed by family members, rates of abuse of older people are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with two in three staff members reporting they have committed abuse in the past year, according to the World Health Organization.

While physical and emotional neglect are the most common types of elder abuse, financial abuse is increasingly becoming a threat as more scammers target the older population for various reasons, including cognitive impairment or the inability to safely navigate technology.

“Sometimes the physical or emotional symptoms lead us to discover intentional misconduct in the form of financial exploitation of the isolated, abandoned person,” Katherine Pearson, a law professor at Penn State Dickinson Law, told WalletHub.

A report from the Federal Trade Commission found older adults lost more than $1.6 billion to fraud in 2022. According to WalletHub, the elderly population is especially vulnerable during times of high inflation. In Nov. 2023, prices increased by 3.1% compared to Nov. 2022.

In its 2023 States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections report, WalletHub compares all 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: prevalence, resources, and protection. These dimensions were evaluated using 16 key indicators of elder abuse protections, including financial elder abuse laws.

Further breakdown of some of these key indicators can be found here

The report found the 10 states with the best elder abuse protections are:

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Ohio
  4. Virginia
  5. Kentucky
  6. Vermont
  7. Wyoming
  8. Iowa
  9. West Virginia
  10. Louisiana

Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Ohio were also the top three in last year’s report. However, North Carolina, Washington, and Pennslyvania, all of which made last year’s list of top 10, did not make this year’s list.

On the contrary, the 10 states with the worst elder abuse protections are:

  1. California
  2. Utah
  3. Montana
  4. South Carolina
  5. New Jersey
  6. Delaware
  7. Tennessee
  8. South Dakota
  9. Nevada
  10. Nebraska

See the full list here and a heatmap below.

Source: WalletHub

Protecting Older People from Financial Abuse

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, policymakers and healthcare providers must push for legislation and internal processes that protect elderly patients against abuse at all times — whether it be by a family member, a friend, a total stranger, or a staff member.

Specific to finances, here are a few tips WalletHub says will help spot signs of elder abuse:

  • Keep an eye out for unusual bank or credit card activity. Be vigilant for any unexpected or abrupt alterations in the financial circumstances of an elderly individual, like substantial withdrawals, transfers, or expenditures.
  • Be cautious of new or unfamiliar “friends.” Some scammers take advantage of the elderly person’s kind nature and willingness to make new friends to gain their trust, which they can then use as a means to exploit them financially.
  • Monitor social media and internet use. Keep a close watch as these platforms can make them vulnerable to scams. Monitoring email accounts can also help identify any potential security concerns.
  • Watch for changes in legal documents. Be alert to any modifications made to legal documents, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, or other documents that may appear to benefit someone other than the elderly person. These changes could be made due to coercion or manipulation by family members, caregivers, or others who may be pressuring the older adult to make financial decisions against their will.
  • Note changes in behavior. Perpetrators of financial fraud often employ tactics that isolate vulnerable individuals from their social support networks, allowing them to maintain control over their victims. If an older adult seems to be avoiding family and friends or is hesitant to discuss their financial situation, it may be indicative of elder financial abuse.
  • Be mindful of any decline in personal care conditions. If an older person is living in poor conditions, not receiving necessary medical care, or not getting proper nutrition, it could be a sign that their financial resources are not being used for their well-being.

As part of its report, WalletHub also interviewed six experts about ways families, organizations, and lawmakers can protect America’s elderly population. Their responses can be found under the “Ask the Experts” dropdown in the report’s Table of Contents.

Curious if your state has made improvements? Here are last year’s findings.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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