Professionals who are in close contact with elderly people could soon be in a better position to spot if they are being financially exploited, for example through a lottery scam or by a deceitful relative draining the bank account, thanks to a pioneering new study funded by the UK Research Councils' New Dynamics of Ageing programme (NDA).
Researchers have started to untangle the complex decision-making process that professionals go through when confronted with an elderly person whose financial situation raises suspicions that exploitation may be taking place. The research was led by psychologist Mary Gilhooly of Brunel University.
"The number of frail and mentally impaired older people in society is increasing, and there are growing challenges with money handling," said Gilhooly. "There are many stories of elderly people being financially exploited through scams or relatives - although there has not been enough academic research on the issue. "
The researchers wanted to find out how professionals who deal with the elderly make decisions relating to potential financial exploitation – what information they use, how they weigh it up, and whether they decide to act or not.
"It is a complex process," said Gilhooly. "First you have to notice that something is wrong, then you have to decide whether it is abuse and this is clearly not straightforward. You need to make the decision whether to do something or not, and if you do decide to intervene you need the appropriate skills. Things could go wrong at any one of these points."
The researchers focused on three groups of professionals: healthcare workers, social care workers and bankers. The professionals were presented with a range of scenarios based on real-life cases of financial abuse and questioned on how they would respond and what 'cues' would raise their suspicions of something being amiss.
"We found that while there may be multiple cues that could be taken into account when considering the likelihood that financial exploitation is taking place, only two or three are really important," said Gilhooly.
REHACARE.de; Source: Economic & Social Research Council