Coercive Control of the Elderly
We’ve all become more familiar recently with the expression ‘coercive control’ in the context of domestic abuse.
Coercive control is when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared.
What may feel less familiar however is the idea that coercive control isn’t just experienced by the younger generation. Older people, especially those with dementia, are at risk as well and the abuse may be related to finances as well as physical or emotional harm.
60-80% of financial abuse takes place in the home and is perpetrated mainly by family members.
Abuse generally starts with relatively small acts which then escalate in seriousness. Perhaps an adult son offers to do some shopping for his mother and is given a bit of cash for his trouble. Over time the money is taken because “she wanted me to have it” or “I’m just taking my inheritance early” or “no one else helps to look after her”.
Financial abuse can lead to prosecution for a criminal offence (e.g. fraud or theft) and it may also be possible to recover the money by civil proceedings. But this sort of abuse is almost certainly under reported as the victim may fear further abuse or be concerned that they are not believed. Sometimes the action is not recognised as abuse or the victim is embarrassed, upset or lacks mental capacity to understand the situation. Abuse is, by its nature, a secret offence and it can be difficult for professionals or family members even to be aware that anything is happening. Cultural and language barriers can also help abusers.
There are warning signs to look out for when financial abuse has occurred and there are remedies that can be pursued.
Some indicators of financial abuse are: –
- Signatures on cheques that do not resemble the person’s usual signature.
- Any sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money.
- The sudden addition of names on the person’s bank accounts.
- Sudden changes to or an unexpected creation of a will.
- The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives.
- The unexplained sudden transfers of assets to a family member or someone outside the family.
- Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent, care home bills etc when there is someone who is supposed to be paying the bills.
- Unusual concern by someone that an excessive amount of money is being expended on the care of the person.
- Lack of amenities such as TV, personal grooming items etc that the person should be able to afford.
- The unexplained disappearance of funds or valuables.
- Deliberate isolation of the person from friends/family resulting in the carer having total control.