The purpose of this research was to explore, in comparison to other forms of elder abuse, the nature and dynamics of financial exploitation of the elderly, associated risk factors, and society's responses to this abuse.
The objective was to supply systematically-generated, reliable empirical information regarding (1) factors that contributed to or that were associated with the financial abuse of people as opposed to other forms of elder abuse, (2) what triggered and promoted the reporting of the abuse, (3) what facilitated and limited investigations of the abuse, (4) what steps were taken in response to reports of the abuse and the perceptions of the effectiveness of the responses, and (5) how society's efforts to prevent and ameliorate the abuse could be enhanced.
Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Data
This study examined four forms of elder abuse by using a series of triangulated semi-structured interviews where each set of interviews was linked to one report of elder abuse with (1) the APS caseworker charged with investigating this abuse, (2) the victim of the abuse and 3) where available, a third person unrelated to the incident of abuse who knew the elder relatively well. Although in some cases the related "incident" occurred over a period of time, the abuse was part of an ongoing, relatively persistent pattern of conduct and was thus characterized by APS as involving a single "incident."
The triangulated interviews provided convergent and sometimes contrasting perspectives on the dynamics of elder abuse in general and financial abuse of elderly people in particular, the risk factors associated with this abuse, what facilitated and impeded the reporting of the abuse, and the nature of the investigations into and perceptions of the effectiveness of the responses to this abuse by APS and any other societal representatives involved.
Twelve comparable survey instruments were developed (4 types of abuse x 3 categories of informants) in order to compare the perceptions of APS caseworkers, elderly victims, and, when available, an uninvolved third-party observer. The semi-structured interview was divided into five sections. The interview began with a request for a narrative about the target incident. This section was used to capture and explore the dynamics of the abuse and to examine qualitatively the differences in perceptions between APS caseworkers and elderly participants. In the second section, specific follow-up questions were asked about the case. This section was used to identify the key characteristics of each case. In the third section of the interview, demographic and risk factor questions were asked regarding the elder, followed by similar questions addressing the abusive individual. In the fourth section, questions were asked about the APS investigation and response. And finally, questions were asked about the outcome of the case.
Adult Services Adult Protective Services
To supplement the data obtained from the interviews, the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) granted access to the Adult Services/Adult Protective Services (ASAPS) Database which records whenever services and protective services are provided in response to a report of elder or other adult abuse. Data are entered into ASAPS by APS caseworkers at the close of every case for which a report of abuse was submitted. ASAPS contains information drawn from several sources, one of which is the Uniform Assessment Instrument (UAI). It contained information on approximately 15,000 cases that were entered by APS caseworkers over the past two years.
Cases were selected that involved persons over the age of 59 in which an incident of elder abuse took place in the elder's home or similar domicile and involved one of the four types of elder maltreatment of interest in the study: financial exploitation only, physical abuse only, neglect by another individual only, and hybrid financial exploitation cases (i.e. financial exploitation and either physical abuse or neglect).
Prosecutor Interview Data
To complement the findings related to elder's and caseworker's perceptions of elder abuse prosecution, prosecutors in four states were interviewed about their experience prosecuting elder abuse, barriers and facilitators associated with prosecuting such cases, and possible reforms. Prosecutors were contacted via telephone or email and asked to participate in an interview regarding the prosecution of elder abuse.
A 35-item interview was developed based on a review of the prosecution literature identifying the barriers and facilitators associated with the prosecution of elder abuse generally, and financial exploitation cases specifically. Responses were recorded on the interview instrument and later entered into SPSS.
Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
Subjects were recruited by contacting all APS agencies in Virginia and inviting them to participate in the study. The Principal Investigator worked with Agency Directors, APS Supervisors APS caseworkers to identify a focal case for the study with the following eligibility criteria:
- The case involved one of the following types of abuse: (a) financial exploitation, (b) physical abuse, (c) neglect by another person, or (d) a hybrid financial exploitation case (i.e., financial exploitation and physical abuse, or financial exploitation and neglect).
- The victim of the abuse had to be 60 or over when the abuse occurred and living in his or her home or some other domestic setting (i.e., not in an institutional setting) at the time of the incident(s),
- Only cases in which there was an APS investigation were included because part of the focus of the study was the APS investigation of the cases and the outcomes following the investigations.
- The APS case had received a disposition (i.e., that the report of abuse had been determined to be "founded" or "unfounded" by the investigating APS caseworker).
Adult Services Adult Protective Services Data
Administrative data was obtained from the ASAPS database of 15,000 cases. Records were selected that involved persons over the age of 59 in which an incident of elder abuse took place in the elder's home or similar domicile (i.e., in a domestic rather than an institutional setting). Cases involving one of the four types of elder maltreatment of interest in this study were selected (i.e., financial exploitation only, physical abuse only, neglect by another individual only, and hybrid financial exploitation cases (financial exploitation and either physical abuse or neglect)). This resulted in the identification of 2,142 cases.
Prosecutor Interview Data
Prosecutor interviews were conducted either in person or via telephone with a snowball technique used to obtain additional prosecutors. A total of 17 prosecutors in four states were interviewed.
Dataset 1 (Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Data): Adult Protective Services (APS) caseworkers in Virginia, their elder clients and third party informants.
Dataset 2 (Adult Services Adult Protective Services (ASAPS) Data): Subset of the Adult Services/Adult Protective Services (ASAPS) database of the Virginia Department of Social Services pertaining to cases involving elder maltreatment (financial exploitation only, physical abuse only, neglect by another individual only, and hybrid financial exploitation).
Dataset 3 (Prosecutor Interview Data): Prosecutors from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California.
Adult Services Adult Protective Services (ASAPS) dataset from Virginia Department of Social Services
administrative records data,
Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Data (Dataset 1; 71 cases, 580 variables) consists of 71 adult protective services (APS) caseworker interviews, 55 elderly victim interviews and 35 third party interviews pertaining to 71 cases of abuse. The survey instrument has eight sections: (1) interview setting, (2) caseworker information, (3) nature of abuse and its consequences, (4) risk factors (and demographics) - elder person, (5) risk factors - perpetrator, (6) nature of disclosure/report, (7) APS response, and (8) case outcome. Section 1 contains variables on the type of case and interview setting. Section 2 contains variables on the demographics of the APS caseworker, case type, and work load. Section 3 contains variables on the nature of the abuse, the victim's awareness of the abuse, and consequences of the abuse. Section 4 contains variables on elderly victim's demographics, health, and risk factors. Section 5 contains variables on the perpetrator's demographics and risk factors. Section 6 contains variables on the allegations and cooperation on the investigation. Section 7 contains variables on the nature of the APS's response and result of the response. Section 8 contains variables on the outcome of the case and opinions on the outcome.
Adult Services Adult Protective Services Data (Dataset 2; 2142 cases, 40 variables) consists of variables on the demographics of elderly victims, health information, living circumstances, and abuse case information.
Prosecutor Interview Data (Dataset 3; 17 cases, 142 variables) has two sections: (1) examining prosecutor's decision to prosecute elder maltreatment and (2) cases involving financial exploitation of victim. Section 1 contains variables on the demographics of the prosecutors, difficulty in prosecuting elder abuse cases and factors determining prosecution decision. Section 2 contains variables on prosecution decisions involving cases of financial exploitation.
Several Likert-type scales were used.