The toll of financial abuse appears to be rising for American seniors and their caregivers.

According to a recent study of caregivers from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, financial abuse and exploitation is costing U.S. seniors 20 percent more than it did two years ago.

In the "2016 Safeguarding Our Seniors Study," Allianz found that the average cost per victim of financial abuse is now $36,000, up from less than $30,000 in a similar 2014 study. More than half of the most recent study’s respondents said that the effect on the elder victim was a “major loss” or “financial ruin.”

More than one-third of active caregivers, 37 percent, have said that the elder they are caring for has experienced financial abuse or exploitation with a loss.

Allianz’s survey was able to link cognitive decline with the occurrence and severity of abuse. Incidence of elder financial abuse was 10 percentage points greater among caregivers whose charge had experienced some level of mental decline – 34 percent of respondents caring for an elder with cognitive decline reported witnessing some level of financial abuse, versus 24 percent of those whose charge had no mental decline.

Caregivers whose patients had experienced cognitive decline reported an average monetary loss of $41,000, 28 percent higher than those caring for a senior with no mental decline, who reported average losses of $32,000.

Elders suffer an emotional toll from financial abuse, according to the survey. The caregiving respondents reporting financial abuse told Allianz that their charges responded with anger, depression, anxiety and/or guilt. More than half of caregivers said that financial abuse caused their elder to isolate themselves from their peers. Elders with cognitive decline were significantly more likely to isolate themselves than those without.

What’s more, elder financial abuse also has a financial impact on caregivers – over 90 percent of the respondents said they also experienced a financial impact from the abuse, and they’ve reported an average cost to them of $36,000 for each instance of financial abuse.

Financial abuse often does not occur as an isolated incident – 40 percent of all active and potential caregivers say that their elder has experienced financial abuse more than once.

Yet Allianz says that one-in-three caregivers didn’t believe that their charges would report financial abuse due to embarrassment, lack of awareness, or not knowing who to tell. One-quarter of the respondents said that they had discovered the financial abuse of their charges themselves.

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