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Professional approach prevents abuse of elderly

As financial abuse of the elderly becomes an increasingly widespread problem, Brunel academics have identified ways in which professionals can be helped to stop it in its tracks.

In the UK alone more than 70,000 old people each year have money stolen from them by people they trust. And with the number of elderly people placing their financial affairs in the hands of others rapidly increasing, detecting and preventing such abuse is an important national challenge.

Many of the most vulnerable suffer from cognitive impairment such as dementia, which can also lead to false accusations.

Professor Mary Gilhooly and her team from Brunel’s Institute for Ageing Studies undertook a four-year project to help professionals caring for the elderly develop policy and procedures not only to uncover abuse, but to intervene effectively.

They found was that, while many large financial organisations had guidance for staff, little was done to judge whether it was fit for purpose.

Using statistical modelling and quantitative analysis techniques the Brunel team were able to tease out the most important “red flags” that abuse was occurring. From this, a series of web-based training tools were developed.

Not only did the work raise the awareness of this largely hidden problem, the project also had mayor international impact with the training on accessed by professionals as far apart as the US and New Zealand.

In the UK, the work has been endorsed by bodies as diverse as the College of Occupational Therapists, the Building Societies Association and multi-disciplinary fraud detection agency, CIFAS.