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Dallas County working to protect senior from financial abuse

For seniors in Texas, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) says the financial exploitation of adults who are elderly or disabled is an increasing problem, and protecting them from becoming victims is everyone's business.

In Dallas County, The Senior Source - which has served greater Dallas since 1961 - the Dallas County district attorney's office and the Dallas County Probate Court have combined forces to create the Elder Financial Safety Center. The Center's mission is to ensure the financial security of seniors in a comprehensive and systematic manner. Financial safety, the Center says, is the "gateway" issue to public safety for Texas, and Dallas County, seniors. The lack of financial safety affects property crime, fraud, housing and health choices. In short, it can lead to exploitation.

The numbers surrounding elder financial abuse are staggering. According to NBC News, a 2009 study estimated senior's financial losses from abuse to be at least $2.6 billion a year. NBC went on to say that only 1 in 6 cases of financial abuse is ever reported. National Adult Protective Services Association paints a much more bleak picture, saying that 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse is reported.

Whatever the actual number is in Dallas County and nationwide, one case is one case too many. And that's where the Elder Financial Safety Center comes in. The Center takes a three-pronged approach to protecting seniors in Dallas County.

The first task is prevention. The Center offers financial safety services for seniors, including money management, budgeting, fraud advocacy, benefits and insurance counseling and employment services.

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, an insurance expert will help seniors with Medicare and Medicaid, answer questions about life insurance, long-term care insurance and other topics. Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas will help with money questions and debt counseling. The Center, which aims to make most services free, expects to serve 3,000 people a year through its prevention arm.

The next step is protection for seniors. The organization will provide guardianship services for the elderly who need help and annual in-home monitoring of care. The Center is providing a person whose only responsibility is making sure Dallas County's seniors are seen, and if there are problems, correcting them.

If the first two approaches don't work, the final step is prosecution. The district attorney's office will investigate and prosecute cases of elder financial abuse and exploitation, and it will also offer education and training for law enforcement members so they can more easily spot signs of abuse.

As Assistant District Attorney Amy Croft told the Dallas Morning News, the Center is also going to create greater community-wide awareness of the issues of elder financial abuse. And the elderly victims of financial abuse and exploitation are going to have access to resources that didn't exist before the Center was formed.

The Elder Financial Safety Center can be reached at 214-525-6130.

To discuss planning strategies to protect your family from financial abuse or fraud, contact our office for a consultation.

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