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'Toolkit' Available to Prevent Financial Abuse of Elderly Texans

Help is available online for Texans who assist elderly family members or others with financial matters. (Highwaystarz/iStockphoto)
Help is available online for Texans who assist elderly family members or others with financial matters. (Highwaystarz/iStockphoto)
March 9, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas – Financial exploitation costs the elderly and their families more than $3 billion each year, and Texas advocates are working to help prevent thefts and scams.

During National Consumer Protection Week, several groups are reaching out to help caregivers protect their loved ones' money and property by providing resources and education.

Ann Baddour, director of the Fair Financial Services Project at Texas Appleseed, says a toolkit for caregivers, "Managing Someone Else's Money in Texas," is available to help with financial decision-making.

"We took a template that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau developed, and adjusted it and adapted it to represent the state of affairs in Texas," she explains, "since a lot of these issues are based in state law and are really state-specific."

Baddour says the free toolkit is designed to help caregivers understand the best ways to safeguard money and property. She says her group and several partners are working to help the state's 3.5 million caregivers navigate legal and practical decisions for a loved one, particularly when they can no longer make their own choices.

Anita Sybesma of Austin hired home health aides to care for her 94-year-old mother. She says not one but two of the caretakers she hired exploited her mother, stealing money and family heirlooms worth more than $10,000.

Sybesma says the incidents left her shaken, but she also was surprised to find that she was not alone.

"Every person I have talked to about this – 100 percent of them – have said, 'That happened to my aunt, that happened to my sister, that happened to somebody else,' that they knew," she relates.

Baddour agrees that the problem may be considerably larger than statistics indicate.

"Only one in every 44 incidents is actually reported,” she points out. “So, if you put those numbers to Texas, in 2015 there were a little over 700 instances reported. That means over 32,000 instances of financial abuse go unreported."

Baddour says the toolkits are available for download in both English and Spanish at www.ProtectTheirMoneyTX.org.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - TX