AUGUSTA – Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, introduced a bill this week to protect older adults from financial exploitation by funding a program that offers personal financial management assistance.
Nationally, older adults lose an estimated $2.9 billion per year to financial abuse.
“Financial exploitation of our elderly neighbors is a real and serious problem in our state,” said Gattine. “We need to protect our older adults and ensure they have the resources necessary to manage their money.”
In 2012, more than 14,000 Mainers were victims of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, according to the state’s Office of Aging and Disabilities Services.
Gattine’s bill provides ongoing funding to the program within the Department of Health and Human Services that assists older adults with managing their personal finances.
Maine’s Area Agencies on Aging currently provide these services through the Money Minders program. This highly successful program has been in existence for more than a decade, but has been supported only through unpredictable charitable gifts and foundation support. Gattine’s bill aims to ensure that sustainable, ongoing funding is available.
Money Minders helps older adults maintain their independence. Many have physical disabilities such as Parkinson’s, severe arthritis or blindness that prevent them from physically writing checks. Others are widows or widowers who were never in charge of finances in their homes and need help making a budget or balancing a checkbook. Some are experiencing mild cognitive impairments but are still able to make decisions if given some support.
Money Minders is staffed by volunteers who are matched with adults over the age of 55 who need help establishing and maintaining a monthly budget, ensuring bills get paid accurately and on time. These volunteers help people avoid over drafting their bank accounts, financial fraud and scams that target older adults.
“Many of our older adults live alone and do not have the support they need to protect their assets,” Gattine said. “This program is important to ensuring our elderly are well-cared for and are not taken advantage of by fraudsters.”
According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, 5 million elders are abused in the United States every year. Forty percent of all elder abuse involves financial exploitation, and 60 percent of that elderly financial exploitation is perpetrated by adult children.
A study by the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services found that the top methods used to exploit older adults were bank withdrawals at 44 percent, credit card misuse or identity theft at 35 percent, stealing or forging checks at 25 percent and car theft at 19 percent.
The bill, LD 1348, will receive a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee in the coming weeks.
Gattine is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and represents part of Westbrook. He is the House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.