Financial Abuse Can be Elder Abuse



Respecting our Elders includes respecting their finances

A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, Acting Chief Medical Officer


First Nations culture is based on respect – fo​r ourselves, for other people, for our lands, for animals and resources, and especially for our precious Elders. Happily, most of us try to preserve our cultural and individual integrity by practising respect in our everyday lives.

Sadly, however, in the case of Elders – who are often vulnerable because of their advanced ages and declining health – there have been situations where Elders have been taken advantage of, or financially abused. These incidents have arisen because of greed, need, opportunity (access to funds), or a sense of entitlement. Often the abuse comes from someone the Elder trusts, such as their caretaker, a family member, or a friend. Financial abuse of the elderly happens among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike, and across every part of society.

Financial abuse of Elders can range from stealing cash or valuables, misusing bank/credit cards, making unauthorized purchases, or using trickery or persuasion to get the Elder's money. Warning signs include:

 The Power of Attorney changes.

 A joint account is created with another person.

 Mail (e.g., bank statements) being diverted to another person.

 Spending habits drastically change.

 ​The Elder is isolated or harder to connect with.​

​​If you think an Elder is being financially abused, you can contact the BC Seniors' Abuse and Infor​​mation Line, a confidential information line available seven days per week between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. at 1-866-437-1940 toll-free in BC.

​First Nations Elders can be particularly susceptible to financial abuse for a number of reasons. Many have had to transition from a trade and barter system to a market economy, including the expansion of the banking system and increased use of credit. The introduction of online financial services has created still more barriers for Elders, who are much less likely to have computer literacy skills or access to a computer with a secure Internet connection. And many Elders also face language barriers.

How can you help an Elder who is being financially abused? If you are concerned, you may want to ask questions, for example, “I noticed that you're spending more time with ______ at bingo / that _____ is visiting you a lot lately; how are you feeling about your visits together?" Or, if you suspect an Elder is being financially abused, you may want to contact the numbers above.

It is prudent to seek financial education before a problem arises. Financial planning, management, and protection of assets need to be considered when an Elder has saved or receives a larger than usual amount of funds. Possible sources include: (1) Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, (2) Indian Day School Class Action, (3) Sixties' Scoop Settlement, (4) Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, (5) Land Claim Pay-Out, or 6) Employment or Pension Income. 

Prosper Canada, in its resource entitled “Financial Literacy and Aboriginal Peoples," advises thatFinancial education for Elders should include programs and services that are accessible, unbiased, culturally appropriate and relevant for both seniors and those responsible for their care. […] It should also include information about financial fraud and scams that specifically target people in their senior years, including financial abuse." 

For more information, visit​ the links below:

How to arrange your finances to maintain a good quality of life as you age.

What every older Canadian should know about Power of Attorney and substitute decision-making and incapacity.

Where to find leg​​al ad​vice and support.​

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