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The Connection Between Dementia and Financial Elder Abuse

Age affects every individual’s cognitive abilities differently. Some seniors remain sharp until the very end, while others suffer from cognitive impairment early. Dementia and other types of cognitive impairments are common among the elderly; a recent study found that 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 in the U.S. have dementia, while an additional 22% have a mild cognitive impairment. Unfortunately, dementia and other types of cognitive impairments can increase the risk that the sufferer will become the victim of financial elder abuse. If you suspect that a senior loved one is being taken advantage of, a California financial elder abuse attorney can help you pursue legal remedies. 

An Overview of Dementia 

“Dementia” is not a specific medical condition. Rather, it is an umbrella term for a group of related cognitive disorders that generally affect the sufferer’s thinking, remembering, and reasoning. Many types of dementia are progressive, meaning that they increase in severity over time. Individuals who suffer from dementia often face serious difficulties caring for themselves and engaging in the activities of daily living (like dressing, bathing, using the restroom, cooking, shopping and so on). 

Types of Dementia 

As mentioned above, dementia is a group of cognitive disorders. Some of the most common forms of dementia include: 

  • Alzheimer’s disease: The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive dementia that causes a slow decline in memory and thinking skills, eventually rendering the sufferer unable to carry out even simple tasks. 
  • Vascular dementia: Caused by damage to the vessels that supply blood to the brain, it can result in issues with problem-solving, planning, judgment, and organization. 
  • Lewy body disease: Caused by clumps of proteins called “Lewy bodies,” it can manifest in problems with focus and attention, as well as physical symptoms like tremors, stiffness, slow movement, and acting out dreams.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: Caused by a breakdown of nerve cells and their connections in the brain, it can result in personality changes, loss of empathy, changes in eating patterns, and impulsivity. 

Other disorders that are linked to dementia include Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries.

Symptoms of Dementia 

Many of the symptoms of dementia can Interfere significantly with sufferers’ daily lives. Although it is commonly thought to be primarily a mental condition, dementia has both mental and physical symptoms. 

Mental symptoms of dementia can include: 

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty finding words or communicating 
  • Losing one’s train of thought
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Apathy, depression, and withdrawal 
  • Personality and behavior changes 
  • Getting lost easily and wandering away (known as elopement) 
  • Difficulty with tasks that require planning and organization 
  • “Sundowning” (i.e., more pronounced confusion or agitation in the afternoon and night) 

Physical symptoms of dementia can include: 

  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Seizures and twitches
  • Loss of balance and coordination 
  • Shuffling feet 
  • Incontinence 
  • Stiff muscles and muscle fatigue 
  • Stroke-like symptoms 
  • Appetite issues and weight loss 

How Dementia Can Increase the Risk of Financial Elder Abuse  

Dementia patients are at a greater risk of suffering elder abuse, including elder financial abuse. According to a study from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, every one-point decline in cognitive function was associated with an increased risk of elder mistreatment. Below, our California financial elder abuse lawyer explains how dementia can lead to financial elder abuse. 

Greater Vulnerability to Exploitation  

Individuals who suffer from dementia typically are easily confused and have difficulty remembering things (even the answers to questions they just asked) and making complex plans. These symptoms make them particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation. While scammers often target elderly individuals most financial predators are persons closer to a senior who prey on seniors by various  types of fraud, including securities fraud, annuity fraud, insurance fraud, reverse mortgage fraud, real estate fraud, investment fraud, and internet-based fraud

Lack of Capacity

Testamentary capacity is the ability of a person to make a valid will or other testamentary instrument that disposes of their estate. While a diagnosis of dementia is not necessarily conclusive evidence that the sufferer lacks testamentary capacity, it can cast a cloud of suspicion over the legitimacy of any estate planning documents the sufferer executes after that diagnosis. Moreover, individuals who have dementia are at a greater risk of being the victims of probate fraud, including through forgery, power of attorney fraud, breaches of fiduciary duties, and undue influence. Estate planning fraud can have long-term impacts on the victim’s family. If you suspect fraud related to a senior loved one’s estate planning documents, you can discuss your concerns with a San Francisco financial elder abuse attorney

Increased Dependence on Caregivers

Dementia patients in advanced stages of the disease typically must rely on professional caregivers for the necessities of daily life, whether in their own homes or in an assisted living facility. Any time a senior must rely on a professional caregiver, the risk of financial elder abuse increases due to caregiver fraud. Many professional caregivers have nearly unfettered access to their patients, including their patients’ belongings, financial and estate documents, and personal identifying information. Unscrupulous caregivers can easily exploit that access for their own financial gain. 

Reduced Ability to Communicate Abuse 

Many dementia patients suffer memory loss, which may reduce their ability to remember a specific instance of theft or other financial elder abuse. And even if they remember the incident, they often have difficulty putting their thoughts into words. Communication problems can increase the severity of financial elder abuse because it makes it more likely that the financial abuse will continue over a longer period of time. Family members and close friends of seniors with dementia should thus keep a close eye on their financial affairs and familiarize themselves with the red flags of elder financial fraud

Protect Your Loved Ones From Exploitation With Help From a California Financial Elder Abuse Lawyer 

Dementia can increase the risk of a senior becoming the victim of financial elder abuse, but family members can help protect their loved ones by understanding the connection between the two. If you suspect that a senior loved one has been the victim of fraud, exploitation, or abuse, please contact a San Francisco financial elder abuse lawyer at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

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