Detecting and Preventing Financial Abuse of Older Adults

An Examination of Desicion Making by Managers in Health, Social Care, Banking and Assett Management.

(Please scroll to the bottom of the page to see documentation on results, newsletters and working papers)

Who Carried Out This Study?

This study was conducted by an interdisiplinary team of researchers from five universities, with contributions from our study partners. All involved are listed below:

The Brunel University Team:


The project team at the Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies (BIAS)                                                                                      
From left to right: Priscilla Harries, Elizabeth Notley, Deborah Cairns, Mary Gilhooly, Andrea Whitehead, Miranda Davies


Brunel University: Prof Mary Gilhooly, Dr Priscilla Harries, University of Hertfordshire: Prof Ken Gilhooly, The University of Plymouth: Prof Catherine Hennessy, Dr Tony Gilbert, Northumbria University: Prof David Stanley, The University of Sheffield: Bridget Penhale


Action on Elder Abuse: Gary Fitzgerald, British Association of Social Workers: Ruth Cartwright, Help the Aged: Mary Cox, HSBC: Neil Shadbolt, North Tyneside Council: Alison Tombs, Moira West, R&RA: Dr Gillian Dalley, Cornwall Partners in Care: Gill Fairhurst, Primary Care Research Network: Prof John Campbell

Older People's Reference Group

Teresa Lefort, Ray Maslen, Robert Bell 


Why Research Financial Elder Abuse?

With substantial and increasing numbers of frail and cognitively impaired older people being cared for in the community, there are growing challenges associated with money handling.   Financial abuse of older people is of growing concern. Although it is much discussed, financial abuse of older people is poorly understood and has rarely been researched using rigorous methodologies. As a consequence, current policies on detection and intervention are not based on a sound evidence base. To enable frail and cognitively impaired older people to live safely in the community, without fear of financial exploitation, requires the reassurance of effective mechanisms to be in place for detecting and intervening in cases of financial abuse.  


What Did We Aim To Do?

The aim of this research was to examine decision-making in relation to the detection of financial abuse of older people. Financial abuse of older people is recognized as a key research area and there is an identified need to share good practice with regard to detection and prevention.

A prime objective of this study was to influence practice in health and social care, as well as banking and assett management. For frail and moderately cognitively impaired older people to live happily in the community without fear of financial exploitation, requires that there be good mechanisms in place for detecting and intervening in cases of abuse and neglect in a timely and effective way. At the same time, informal care givers and professionals need reassurance that they will not be unfairly accused of financial abuse. This means that policies about detecting financial abuse need to be based on sound evidence, which is not the case at the moment.


Who Funded the Research?

The project was funded by the cross council New Dynamics of Ageing Programme, and administered by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The other research councils that were involved in the funding were the Medical Research Council (MRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


Case Example:

Below is a case of financial elder abuse reported in a local newspaper (Express and Echo) in Exeter on Tuesday 4th of November 2008. This case highlights the importance of the research and why evidence based policies need to be developed to support the desicions health, social care and banking proffessionals have to make in financial abuse situations.


Overview of the Study

There were three phases corresponding to three data collection methods in this study:

Phase I - Individual in depth interviews to focus on suspected cases of financial elder abuse participants ahve come across in their professional work life, and to generate an understanding of factors likely to influence their desicion making about the cases.

Phase II - Case scenarios created from phase I analysis will be presented to participants to indicate the likelihood that they suspect financial elder abuse is occuring, and if they would intervene.

Phase III - Review policy documents and guidelines to identify suggested best practise in dealing with suspected financial elder abuse, and whether there is any indication about how proffessionals should reach desicions.

The first and senond phases ran consecutively and analysis of policy documents ran parallel to the surveys and experiments.


Example of Analysis

The first set of data to be analysed was from the Banking interviews. Bankers demonstarted efficiancy, discretion and skill when dealing with cases of suspected elder financial abuse. In some cases members of staff went beyond the call of duty to ensure the financial security of their customers. While banking staff were able to act on cases of financial abuse of an older person, a number of barriers were also acknowledged.

Figure 1 below demonstartes the impotant steps taken by banking professionals when dealing with financial abuse and figure 2 following identifies the barriers that banking staff are currently facing.

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Case scenarios, see example below, were constructed from the banking interview analysis. These were then piloted on banking professionals prior to the begining of phase 2 of the study. The same process was then carried out for health and social care professionals.


Research Documents

Full Protocol

Project Poster

Project Leaflet

Project Information Sheet


December 2008 Newsletter

January 2009 Newsletter

February 2009 Newsletter

March 2009 Newsletter

April 2009 Newsletter

May 2009 Newsletter

August 2009 Newsletter

October 2009 Newsletter

January 2010 Newsletter


International Social Work Paper

Working Papers

Working Paper 1: Literature Review, Financial Elder Abuse

Working Paper 2: Literature Review, Decision Making

Working Paper 3: Phase 1 Methods and Findings

Working Paper 4: Draft Journal Article, Phase 1 Findings

Working Paper 5: Methods, Phase 2

Working Paper 6: Results, Phase 2, Social Care and Health

Working Paper 7: Results, Banking

Working Paper 8: Policy Analysis, Phase 3

Working Paper 9: Ethical Review

Working Paper 10: Research Digest


Printed NDA Findings

Page last updated: Friday 30 March 2012