You are currently viewing Preventing Elder Financial Abuse & Exploitation

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse & Exploitation

Episode #67June 29, 2021

Facts About Elder Financial Abuse & Exploitation

One out of every 20 older adults in the U.S. is a victim of financial exploitation, losing an average of $80,000 to $186,000 ( The vast majority of elder financial abuse cases are most likely to be somebody the older adult knows: family members (54%), 31% care workers, and 13% partners (Jackson, 2016).

Banks and money service businesses reported a 400% increase in suspicious activity from 2013-2017. The vast majority of this suspicious activity involved people over 60 (

Today’s guest, Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, is a national expert in preventing  financial abuse and exploitation and reducing its impact on older adults.


In this interview, Dr. Lichtenberg reviews:

  • Examples of elder financial exploitation to help raise awareness
  • What increases risk for financial vulnerability
  • Resources to help older adults, caregivers, and professionals prevent elder financial exploitation
  • The SAFE Program: Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment
  • Resources to help older adults recover from identity theft

About Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, ABPP

Peter A. Lichtenberg, Ph.D., ABPP is the Director of The Institute of Gerontology and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, and a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. A clinician and researcher throughout his career Dr. Lichtenberg, one of the first board certified Clinical Geropsychologists in the nation. He devotes his clinical and research efforts to better understand the intersection between cognitive impairment, financial capacity and financial exploitation; finding ways to balance autonomy and protection for older adults. Across the past decade he has created several tools to help assess financial vulnerability, and financial decision making capacity and partnered with the State of Michigan to have his tools implemented by Adult Protective Services. His website has attracted thousands of professionals, caregivers and older persons where narrated trainings and his scales can be found and used. The recipient of several major professional awards Dr. Lichtenberg has authored 7 books and over 190 scientific articles in Geropsychology.


Older Adult Nest Egg helps assess financial decision making and determine financial vulnerabilities. It provides training, tools and resources for professionals, caregivers and older adults themselves.  These results help identify those at-risk. And they can protect older adults from financial exploitation like undue influence, financial mismanagement and fraud. Learn more at and at the SAFE Program: Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment

Learn More About Elder Financial Exploitation & Helpful Resources

Where to Report Elder Abuse

If you suspect abuse, you can do something about it. First, recognize the signs. It can be painful, but don’t ignore the signs. Instead, acknowledge the signs, then report the situation so it can be investigated. Here’s how:


Related Elder Abuse Episodes:



  • National Center on Elder Abuse, Research, Statistics, & Data, Retrieved on June 22, 2021 from:
  • Jackson, S. L. (2016). All elder abuse perpetrators are not alike: The heterogeneity of elder abuse perpetrators and implications for intervention. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology60(3), 265-285.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 0:00

Fraudsters are looking at you know, help somebody else. Make a difference, that behavioral confirmation what you do is important to somebody else. Help your family by getting rich, the lottery scams, the sweepstakes, scams or fear, you know, IRS is coming to get you or your grandson is arrested in Acapulco or, or what have you. But also those mechanisms of exploitation that we've started to touch on, you just touched on one abuse of trust. That's so much at the heart of so much of this exploitation. And we talked about coercion or undue influence. The third one is really financial entitlement. And this is really sad, because, you know, let's say I'm, I am a middle aged adult, and I was I was my dad's caregiver. But let's say all of a sudden, I say, Well, you know, I have to take that to the doctor. And you should really drive around a nice car course 99% of the time, I'll drive around some of by myself, but a BMW with my dad's money. And I start to feel entitled to that I don't think of that as theft or misuse of funds. And that's a real problem, because what we have noticed is that money is quite a taboo topic. Among generations, older people don't talk with their younger family members about their finances, where it's kept, how they protect it, and so forth.

Dr. Regina Koepp 1:30

I'm Dr. Regina Koepp. I'm a clinical geropsychologist, which means that I'm a psychologist who specializes with older adults and families. And this is the psychology of aging podcast, your go to resource for mental health, and aging. Welcome to the 67th episode of the psychology of aging podcast. This episode is on preventing elder financial abuse and exploitation with Dr. Peter Lichtenberg.

Dr. Regina Koepp 2:02

This is the third of a four part series on elder abuse and exploitation. The first of this series, I shared some basic statistics about elder abuse and where you can report elder abuse. And then I interviewed in the next episode, Cathy Schottenstein Pattap, who is the granddaughter of Beverly shatan Steen who was financially exploited by her grandsons and JP Morgan bank, and was awarded $19 million upon winning her lawsuit. And today, Dr. Peter Lichtenberg is on the podcast sharing about how to prevent financial exploitation and abuse. And next week I interview Paige Ulrey who is the Senior Deputy Prosecutor for King County in Seattle. And her sole specialty is elder abuse. In today's interview Dr. Lichtenberg shares examples of elder financial exploitation so he shares his own stories and experiences of working with older adults and their families who have been financially exploited. And this is an effort to raise awareness about what financial abuse looks like so we know how to help and prevent it. He'll also share what increases the risk for financial vulnerability, lots of resources to help older adults, caregivers and professionals to prevent elder financial exploitation and to recover from identity theft. Let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Peter Lichtenberg. Dr. Peter Lichtenberg is the director of the Institute of gerontology in the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, and a distinguished professor of psychology at Wayne State in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Lichtenberg was one of the first board certified clinical Jarrow psychologists in the nation. he devotes his clinical and research efforts to better understand the intersection between cognitive impairment, financial capacity and financial exploitation. Across the past decade, he has created several tools to help assess financial vulnerability and financial decision making and partnered with the state of Michigan to have his tools implemented by Adult Protective Services. Dr. Lichtenberg is the recipient of several major professional awards, and he has authored seven books and over 190 scientific articles in Jarrow psychology. His new website older adult helps assess financial decision making and determine financial vulnerabilities for older adults. It provides training tools and resources for professionals, caregivers and older adults themselves. I cannot think of a better person to help us prevent elder financial abuse and exploitation. In this interview we talk about or Dr. Lichtenberg talks about the family as a system and caregiving occurring in the context of a system, and relationships. And what's so wonderful about his resource, the, is that he really acknowledges and offers resources for each person in that system, the older adult, the family, and even the professionals who are working with older adult and the family. I'm delighted to be interviewing Dr. Lichtenberg. And I hope that you will check out the show notes page for all of the resources. All right, let's jump into the interview.

Dr. Regina Koepp 5:34

Peter, thank you so much for joining me today on the psychology of aging podcast, I am delighted that you're here to enlighten us about a really tough topic, which is about financial exploitation and vulnerability and how to help families navigate and professionals navigate these challenging waters. So thank you for being here.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 5:55

Thank you so much for having me, Regina. And thank you for covering this important topic.

Dr. Regina Koepp 6:00

Yeah, your resource, and which we'll talk about today. And this interview was recently mentioned in a in a double AARP article about and must have resource for protecting yourself against financial exploitation. And so congratulations.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 6:19

We were delighted to get the call from them and ask if it was okay to post us. And yes, indeed, our our services and our resources, of course, are national and International...

Dr. Regina Koepp 6:30

International? whoa, that's impressive. Well, can you share a little bit of how did you get interested in working with older adults and around finances? What what's the backstory of that?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 6:42

Sure. So I've had a 35 year career in neuro psychology and geriatric neuro psychology done a lot of work in dementia and dementia assessments and, and a lot of work even earlier in my career. And throughout in capacity assessments. So let me just describe one case I got involved with with the legal system, about an 87 year old woman who had passed away, she had been noted to have early Alzheimer's disease, she lived alone with her dog, in a very cohesive neighborhood, a lot of dear friends and so forth. One of her former neighbors who had moved away, swoop back in May to deal with this woman, Hey, I'll take care of you. And if you leave me your house, I'll also take care of your dog after after you die. Well, he never took care of the woman. B, she had the dog put to sleep after the woman died, and see how she ended up being the sole recipient of the woman's in her will. And her children, this former neighbor's children end up living in the house that the older woman had, it was a horrible case. And that's just one of many that I've been involved in. And, you know, when you do capacity assessments, all of a sudden you realize with all the dark side of this is financial exploitation.

Dr. Regina Koepp 8:12

If you were to break this case down then so a neighbor moves away comes back says all care for you. Where might you have considered or recommended intervening?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 8:27

Yeah, so this is really tough case, because it the woman had early dementia, so she can come across as having it together. The neighbors kind of that were close to her tried to talk to her, and she didn't believe them. And what happens is kind of a classic undue influence case, is that the evil neighbor, former neighbor, really poison the relationships that the older woman had with others in the neighborhood, and really got that paranoia. stoked. This would be a very difficult case to intervene in. I can see that APS worker coming out, don't Protective Service investigating if somebody made a complaint, and finding the woman to say, Oh, well, you know, my, my former neighbor, you know, we were close, and now she's taking care of me, and, and so forth. And sometimes it's really not until things unfold quite a bit that you really see how pernicious and evil this really is.

Dr. Regina Koepp 9:27

Yeah, the benefit of hindsight. I was wanting to back up for a second, can you define undue influence?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 9:36

Sure, sure, is, essentially the overthrow a free will. So I'm going to substitute your will for mine. And how do I do that? Well, I really gotta develop a confidential relationship with you. And in most cases, you really have to have some kind of susceptibility. I mean, you know, extreme cases, if you're kidnapped or something, you could have that but but in most Kids with dementia, that's the susceptibility is confidential relationship. And then I start to isolate you poison other relationships, you become completely dependent on me this power differential. And then the next thing you know, I'm pulling the strings, I'm getting the attorney, I'm calling the attorney, bring him to Oh, yeah, we want to change this deed to the house and change the will. And that's really classic undue influence. And it's, it's one extreme form of financial exploitation. There are many others.

Dr. Regina Koepp 10:33

Yeah, so that is very extreme. And then I was thinking of what a what a painful thing for the neighbors who tried to intervene, but had no legal authority to do anything about it. And then you said, even if APS which is Adult Protective Services got involved, it, they might be able to fool them, the bad actor might be able to fool them...

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 10:56

One other case that came from the same kind of work. And this is more along the lines of what people think of when they think of financial exploitation. This divorced older gentleman who's retired I need for status, big ego, get was getting kind of isolated, and fell into this romance inheritance scam. So it was a classic romance scam, except with a really interesting twist. The inheritance was, well, I am a woman, and I want to marry you know, because I love you in the romance scam, but also because I can't inherit my $15 million in my culture unless I'm a married woman. And he actually ended up sending $800,000 across two months to, to a nefarious individual that didn't really exist. I mean, so he sent it off. And, you know, I got involved in this case, that eventually became a guardianship case. He still believed that he was going to have a payoff for this, even though the FBI had sat down with him and the bank president, this is one of those cases where it really, you know, they had done such a good job of influencing him and, and tapping into that need for status and visibility and being kind of an important person, that they totally overtook him.

Dr. Regina Koepp 12:30

When you just think about the desire to for love, and the longing for that intimate connection and how, how easily exploited that piece of that relationship was

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 12:43

exactly, that's exactly. Yes. And this happens a lot, you know, more even in person for lesser sums. But this case, of course, was so somewhat unique, and how much money left, how quickly.

Dr. Regina Koepp 13:02

So now, I know that you all have done, at Wayne State and the department that you work in, have done research on. You talked about that first case, early memory loss and financial decision making and the risk for a financial exploitation. Can you talk a bit about the research and the findings there.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 13:21

Sure. So you know, I did one of the first national studies on Friday, it just so happened that the question I wanted in there got put into this part of the sub study the healthy retirement survey. And so I knew about the data. And so we did the study, we found out the psychological vulnerability was a big predictor of fraud. And I started to think, you know, how would you and in and in these cases to that I assess people in real time? How would you assess their financial decision making, because that's really what it comes down to? Do they have those decisional abilities is that intact? To make an informed decision, we're all allowed to make bad decisions, but has to be informed and there were no instruments out there. So we decided we were going to try with help from numerous colleagues, to create new financial decision making measure one that was person centered, and one that really looked not only at kind of the informed decision making factors of choice and understanding appreciation, but also the contextual factors of financial strain or confidence, psychological vulnerability, and susceptibility factors. as we as we did that, we started to then we had created a long scale, a shorter scale for all kinds of social service professionals, and informant scale for families. And we started to say, Well, does this really show any intersection with funding Neutral exploitation. And sure enough, especially in cases where there's early memory loss, the intersection between faulty decision making and exploitation was clear. We published quite a bit on this.

Dr. Regina Koepp 15:14

And especially and then fill us in on that early memory loss piece, then that's what creates t that psychological vulnerability? Is that what you're saying?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 15:22

No, you know, it actually can be separate from that. And the health and retirement study, interestingly enough, that's a pretty healthy cognitive sample. And so without cognitive deficits, that psychological vulnerability really held that and that's why we knew context was so important, can overwhelm sometimes whether somebody, even even if their intellectual abilities are intact, and not that that context can really determine what they do. But I think we should recognize I think in in financial exploitation, we probably need to come up with a better taxonomy. We talk about people being defrauded, or not, have they been exploited or not. But I think we need, you know, sort of simple exploitation where I don't even know what the word is, it's like a falling, you know, you have falls and you have injurious falls, I think we need that kind of taxonomy and financial exploitation, because people with memory loss are much more likely to have repeated episodes of being exploited. And I think that's really where where they become quite vulnerable, a lot of times, memory or executive functioning deficits, like the gentleman with the romance inheritance scam, he had some clear executive functioning deficits, probably vascular dementia early on. And that, you know, just that concreteness, even though he seemed in so many other ways able to talk about why he was doing this, this, that concreteness didn't allow him to really assess the risks, the consequent potential consequences and so forth.

Dr. Regina Koepp 17:00

I was remembering a case I had where I was working with an individual who was in his 90s cognitively, intact, no dementia process happening, but had medical vulnerabilities and hearing had cochlear double cochlear implants and, and was exploited by a home health aide, actually, who revealed some of her own vulner like financial concerns in her life and, you know, but asked him for support. And his role in the family was as a provider, and he was more and more alone. And, and part of it is it felt so good to give, you know, and to be able to contribute for him, it felt so good to be able to contribute to somebody who was in need. And I think if if she had asked and not exploited him, he might have even done it. And it turned out that it was just exploited because she was lying about all these, there was a house fire and she lost everything. I mean, she she was lying about all these traumatic events in her life that were not true. And, and I think it really appealed to his need to continue searching for something to the world and to people.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 18:16

You know, it's interesting, you say that, I mean, fraudsters are looking at you know, help somebody else. Make a difference, that behavioral confirmation, what you do is important to somebody else, help your family by getting rich, the lottery scams, the sweepstakes, scams, or fear, you know, IRS is coming to get you or your grandson is arrested in Acapulco or, or what have you. But also those mechanisms of exploitation that we've started to touch on, you just touched on one abuse of trust. That's so much at the heart of so much of this exploitation. And we talked about coercion or undue influence. The third one is really financial entitlement. And this is really sad, because, you know, let's say I'm, I am a middle aged adult, and I was I was my dad's caregiver. But let's say all of a sudden, I say, Well, you know, I have to take that to the doctor. And he should really drive around a nice car course 99% of the time, I'll drive around, so I'm gonna buy myself a BMW with my dad's money. And I start to feel entitled to that. I don't think of that as theft or misuse of funds. And that's a real problem, because what we have noticed is that money is quite a taboo topic among generations, older people don't talk with their younger family members about their finances, where it's kept, how they protect it, and so forth.

Dr. Regina Koepp 19:46

What are the barriers to that what keeps people from talking about it?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 19:50

Uh, one thing is people fear that if they let their kids know they have money that they'll feel more entitled to it. Another thing is, it's an interesting societal kind of thing in terms of, you know, generations don't speak about money. And there's thick boundaries about that and has to do with autonomy, just as you were saying about this older individual, the provider, you know, once I reveal these things, I'm not that autonomous person. And yet, I think we all have to have a plan as we get older, because we never know what's going to happen in terms of how do we protect our finances?

Dr. Regina Koepp 20:27

Right, right. So is your recommendation then that families talk about it? Or what do you think?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 20:35

Yeah, my recommendation? Yeah, it's a good question. My recommendation is, it's gonna be different for different individuals, but is that they are talking to somebody about it. So if it's their financial professional, they're talking to them, but they're making a plan that's going to include somebody who is not strictly professional, somebody else who might be the one that someone turns to, in case of, I come into my planners office or accountants office, he knows his boy, Peters not remembered things like he used to, who am I going to contact that kind of a plan? And also, what kinds of protections you know, banks offer a lot of good protections. Now you get wire more than X amount, or there's warning flags that go up on certain kinds of withdraws. You know, so how do you how are you going to deal with that, too?

Dr. Regina Koepp 21:32

Right, right. I like this idea that there's not a one size fits all recommendation. It's different for every family, every relationship, the history of relationships is important to have there been betrayals and other sorts of mistrust in the past or mismanagement of money in the past, even if there are no betrayals, so that might all influence what how people decide to talk about money or not. And then, but not to keep silent to find a trusted individual that can help you make some of these planning decisions.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 22:09

Yeah, absolutely. Correct. Absolutely. And, and, because because without it, you know, a lot of times, some of these awful cases that I see, you know, it's like the prodigal son, the person who has in the past misuse funds and was a strange front. Now, Mom and Dad are getting more frail. And in the swoop. And all of a sudden, you know, I don't remember all those things that they did, and, but at their heart, they're manipulating and trying to gain control. So you got to have some plans in place to make sure that your wishes are going to be to be really upheld, right.

Dr. Regina Koepp 22:54

So these are, in my mind extreme. But then there are these like, subtleties that I see happening where I wonder, and I don't think we'll have clear answers about these cases that sort of skirt the line of exploitation or not, or it's like this ambiguous place where, well, there's a caregiver and, and a strong family history and relationships, and they're pretty in meshed maybe. And maybe the, the person is taking a little more than they would or maybe the older adult is giving to a grandchild when you know because of that sort of desire to contribute. But then the caregiver says, Well, no, we really can't afford that we need to keep your money for this other caregiving need. But then the older adult wants to give and give and give in a in a direction that might not be, you know, helpful to the older adult. those cases are always a little bit harder for me as a clinician where I think, gosh, you know, some of this, is this just a bad decision. And we're entitled to making bad decisions from time to time, or is this like, we need to help us? What would you say in these sort of ambiguous cases?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 24:07

Oh, thanks for bringing this up. It's a great, great, important topic. And one of the one of the things that we've created some trading on is how do you manage somebody else's money? And I think it's important to follow those kinds of rules. And what happens inside of following those rules can be quite variable. But he talked about enmeshment. You really can't commingle funds. I mean, this is really important. You really have to document expenditures that have come out of the older person's accounts. You really have to think of it like if I had to go to court and show the judge your What did I do to care for mom or dad? This is what I spent on. And then when it comes to these kinds of gifts, what's allowable, like you got to come be probably a little bit upfront with others in your family about it. Mom wants to do this, what do you think? Is there? You know, should we sit down with her? Should we do some family mediation about this? What should we do? But secrecy is really what gets people into trouble. And also not having some clear kind of boundaries between the finances and not keeping a chart of accounts on on what they do. And that's where, you know, my brothers would say, Oh, my gosh, you know, Pete's just really going around and exploiting dead, or even though my dad wanted to, you know, send my daughter to a camp or something. And, of course, that can be very genuine, you know, and my dad might have had the money to do that. So I have to be upfront about that in some ways. Right? Right. You're managing a system, when you're a caregiver, you're not just managing the older person, and it is everybody's business, because it they will become interested parties. So you might as well do that upfront.

Dr. Regina Koepp 26:14

Or if, you know, as you were saying that I was just thinking, the older adult in that scenario must feel like a gem getting chiseled away at I mean, just this like chisel, chisel, chisel, all these people want a piece of me talking about me as if I'm not here. I mean, this is where I think it really does help to have some guidance and guidelines. And I know you all offer some of that. And I want to talk about that in a minute. But I'm just thinking about the older adult in this scenario. Yes, I 100% agree the caregiver is managing a system and contain and trying to offer some containment to that. And has, I'm going to say her because the majority of caregivers are women, and has her own interest in that system and role in that system to an end. So how do you I know that autonomy is of paramount importance to the older adult? And so how do you maintain that in the midst of diminished capacity.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 27:19

That's why we actually created our scale, it was to promote autonomy were possible. And it really has been the case that we've used our decision making scale, to show intact abilities, even in the light of cognitive decline or dementia. For example, in one case, a woman wanting to give her house to her son, and his family. Ah, she would she was a sister live, he wanted to be able to go visit and be in her room. A be her other son had done incredibly well in life, and the son had spent so much time caring for her and sacrificed some things. And she just felt it was fair. And, and I thought that was perfectly appropriate. And she was able to express her choice, express an understanding and an appreciation of it. And so that is crucial. The older person is at the center. And when they have even if they have some diminished abilities in other realms, they still may have this intact decision making. But the thing is, you know, because of the caregiving situation, the adult child has to understand they're now in a dual role, their child, their caregiver, their you know, those are, that's a dual role. And that's why I say they have to manage the system, because it's all going to come back to them eventually. And so the best thing for them to do would be to say to their older parent, I'd like I'd like you to talk to brothers and sisters about your plans and why you want to do this. That's the best thing. It's the secrecy that gets people into trouble and really not the communication.

Dr. Regina Koepp 29:09

Peter, can you talk about the survey? Are you talking? I know on your site, you have a few different surveys. There's there's one around financial vulnerability for the older adult, and then there are different surveys and resources for professionals. Which survey were you talking about just then.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 29:25

So just then I was talking about our financial decision making scale for professionals. So we created these three scales. That's where we started. And then we asked the question, Regina, out of our long scale, it's like 60 some items on our website, we just use it for research was that? How much does context matter? Like, take away these intellectual cognitive things? How much just does vulnerability generally matter? And we found Oh, my goodness. Financial vulnerability, predicted kind of group membership, those who we had confirmed exploitation cases, those that were over 80% accuracy. And the 17 items held together as a scale and they cover things like financial awareness like strain, and expenditures versus income, and confidence. They also cover things like psychological vulnerability, how often do you wish you had someone to talk to about your finances that loneliness around finances, or anxiety or depression or, or memory loss interfering with your finances? And the third factor that kind of touched in on the scale is relationship string, as a relationship with a family member becomes strained as you've gotten older due to finances? And, you know, do you think someone wants to take your money? You know, are you worried about your financial freedom? These, this survey is self report. And we said, you know, what, we cross validated by doctoral student will present that next week. And we said, we need to get this out there for people to use. So we created an older adult page on our website. And this survey, 17 items will give you a risk score. And this risk score corresponds to kind of, are you at average risk or high risk or low risk for exploitation, and why because these factors really do tend to create that susceptibility even in cognitively intact individuals.

Dr. Regina Koepp 31:50

So and this is called the financial vulnerability scale on older adults on your website, and

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 31:57

vulnerability. So it's free. All of our instruments are professionals have accounts on our websites, they get our online training and certification can use our assessment tools put in the score, I put in the answers. And we'll provide the scoring and next steps are resources. Same, that we wanted to create this for older adults themselves. So they could just create their on their anonymous, they don't even need to create an account. And they just fill out the scale. And they can print it off. And it gives them some ideas of next steps and also some resources. And what's been amazing, is the response to it. Tell me, we've been up five months, I think we have over 1000 surveys that have been filled out.

Dr. Regina Koepp 32:43

Wow. And, and the survey is free. And then they get resources and information. And those are all big, you know, we're talking about risk and vulnerability. So just want to reassure people, the resources that you send the older adult to are credible, legitimate. Tell us about that. So we know to trust them.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 33:03

So we're very, very careful. No for profit resources at all those we send them to kind of AARP fraud page, the Federal Trade Commission, certain COVID, scam kind of things. So it's all educational material, what can you do to protect yourself? What should you be looking out for, you know, fraud and scams change all the time. And we try to keep up a little bit with it not keep up with all that, but we try to keep up a little bit. So those kinds of resources are more better education, about what's going on out there. Next steps, what we suggest sometimes there's maybe somebody is showing some mental health problems, hey, go get an evaluation for that. If they're feeling like I'm really desperate to talk to somebody about finances, they can talk with us our safe program, we have, you know, a social worker whose economic advocate financial coach.

Dr. Regina Koepp 34:03

What does SAFE stand for?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 34:05

Successful Aging Through Financial Empowerment. And this particular program is based on evidence based program that that there was a national program that started at the University of Maryland, but the group that we patterned ourselves after we went and got trained by them and mentored by them was a group called lifespan in Rochester, New York. And it's it really is the part that we took is a scam and identity theft. For older adults who've been victims of that or community education, of course, but talking about the victims will give them one on one services to restore their credit to make sure they report to the proper people, including the police. And we'll do what we can to retrieve or save them money, which we Yeah, which we often find we can so let me give you an example. One guy a great story. He was in his mid 70s. And he got a report or kind of a notice from a collection agency that he owed $35,000. He had no idea what's going on. And he called the safe program. Because he didn't know how to access his credit report and find out Well, it turns out, he was a victim of identity theft. Somebody charged their student loans to him. He'd never gone to college. But he was, you know, he's very depressed, very anxious. terrifying. He also couldn't figure his way through this. He wasn't. He was he didn't have dementia, but he had some cognitive changes, normal aging that are were just impeding him. So Latoya got the whole thing. disputed it. And they accepted the dispute went away, happily went on with his life. Got married this past fall.

Dr. Regina Koepp 36:00

Oh, my gosh, congratulations.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 36:02

So that was a great example. But interestingly, you know, we were talking about when when is it fraud? When is it just confusion. And we see some pretty, pretty rough financial practices, car loans, mortgages, those kinds of things. Car Loans, especially are not as scrutinized legally. And so we just had a case that was a car loan, that really, the loan was to repair the car, the car never got repaired. But the loan kept ballooning. And what toy really helped to bring that down to the size

Dr. Regina Koepp 36:45

Latoya is the social worker that's connected to the safe program. She is connected to your department at Wayne State. Yes.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 36:52

She's at our institute of gerontology. She and I are joined at the hip on this. And we started very small and we keep expanding the program. On our website, we also have training for caregivers, what we call family and friends. And it's about how to detect dementia, how to manage somebody else's money, how do you look through their financial accounts to detect scams or frauds? And how to have difficult conversations?

Dr. Regina Koepp 37:19

Wow, I mean, you all are just the gift that keeps on giving without taking anything away.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 37:25

Yeah, we've been very blessed. We've gotten a lot of grant support and, and donor support to offer these this information. at no charge. I hate to say free because there's nothing free. Is that no charge to anybody that uses it, because of the different federal Foundation, state and local places that we've been able to get funding.

Dr. Regina Koepp 37:52

Now the SAFE program that you're talking about, which is around fraud and scamming and to work with Latoya, it sounds like she's masterful at these these issues are resolving these issues. Does the person have to be in Michigan to participate in the safe program?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 38:12

No, I'm one of the things about the pandemic, we went virtual. And we found out hey, this was a great idea, we can help so many more people even in Michigan. So we were first for just five counties because you don't can't get around that. And now we've been helping people in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we've been working in the prosecutor's office to help this one woman recover about 20,000 hours. And now nationally, too. And so you go on our website, on the older adult page, you click on the safe page, and then you can fill out a form and we'll get back in touch with you. But one of the things about conversation, and I work on some of the I do a lot of the difficult conversation, coaching, and so forth. So we just had somebody a woman in Wyoming and her mother in California. And, you know, her mother has these hasn't paid her taxes in years and has lots of other kinds of financial expenses, and has been resistant. And I've just been coaching the daughter a little bit about how to how to talk with her mother. And then when she went to visit her mother, we had zoom call. And her mother was much more open to saying, you know, I've been in denial, but it's time to come out of it. And so, I tried to use a lot of motivational interviewing kinds of techniques, Regina, you know, and at the core of that, of course, is that people are ambivalent about a decision or topic. And so you gotta side with both sides of it. You have to be very, very compassionate and really understanding of the older adults feelings that the Identity that's at stake, and how they're thinking through this issue. And then you can probe you can ask some questions, you know, the kind of our general one, and start to get people to think about, you know, maybe doing something different. But so many adult children, they feel so responsible to protect their, their parents, they get very frightened. And we've talked about autonomy, and sometimes they just stepped right on it. And I'll tell you what, those older parents locked the door, they change the locks, they throw the key away. They throw their son's address away. They they're very hurt or very angry, and they feel very persecuted. So you have to be very careful.

Dr. Regina Koepp 40:51

Now, you mentioned conversations. So and this important role of if you and your parents or older adult loved one are struggling to engage in these conversations that it can help at times to have somebody to help coach the conversation along. Now. It sounds like you all offer that in your program. Is that right?

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 41:14

Yeah, we do. We do. We offer services for caregivers that are around finances. This could be even the caregivers own budgeting for their own finances, we recognize that this could be very difficult.

Dr. Regina Koepp 41:27

Wait, let me stop you there say more about that. Because Yeah, they want to know,

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 41:31

Yeah, well, caregivers are stressed financially. And as you were pointing out, sometimes, you know, some, a lot of their assets are going into providing this care. And or they're just so stretched with the sandwich generation kind of thing that they haven't really been budgeting their money. And they're finding that they're losing funds, and they didn't realize that excessive spending. So we'll we'll help them with just their own budgeting. Yeah, as well as anything to do with their, their parents finances or older relatives, finances as well. Or if it's a doesn't have to be family, friends, taking care of an older relative and will provide those services to

Dr. Regina Koepp 42:17

You know what I love so much about what you all are offering back to your I statement about this as a system that you're caring for you all have really set up a program that is caring for this system, you're in thinking about all parties in this system, the caregiver, we don't want the caregiver to be alienated and depleted. We want the caregiver to be empowered, we don't want the older adult to be step you know, stampeded on and they're in their dignity and their autonomy to be violated. We want that to be upheld. And it can be so hard for families to and when you're in the middle of it to try to tease it all apart. And then who to trust to help you with that if there's already secrecy around money. And so a program like yours, which is really, you know, grounded in, in evidence, right, you do a lot of research on this. You're also a psychologist that has long time experience in capacity evaluations and difficult family conversations around capacity, capacity having to do with changes in autonomy, changes in abilities to make decisions about your, your finances, and the importance of these conversations on the front end. So as your capacity might change over time, you have some resources in place, to, to honor your wishes down the road. I think these resources are so valuable what you're offering because families are like, Well, where do we even go for this information? And who do we even trust and we're worried about fraud? Are you going to fraud? You know, are you going to exploit us if we come and talk to you about this and and that you're a program that's safe. And not just your safe program. But your secure program that will you know, is founded on the bedrock of ethics and integrity, and just offering such an important service.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 44:11

Thank you so much, Regina, you know, I found that caregiving was so siloed from elder abuse. And I'll say financial exploitation, part of elder abuse. Because they're just so they're in different systems, and yet as much help as there is for Caregiving. That's a lot of it is about how do you physically care for somebody? How do you care for your own mental health needs as well as older persons, but there wasn't much for finances. And so that's where we thought that we had the opportunity to offer now in the elder abuse site. A lot of we trained a lot of Adult Protective Service Workers, many of them came from job protective services or domestic violence. They have no idea about dementia. Memory loss like, and kind of how to have these kinds of conversation with the older person too. And so we're just trying to blend that. And we thought, you know, as we do that, we need to have a public face to this too, for families and, and for older, older adults themselves. So thank you, we appreciate it.

Dr. Regina Koepp 45:22

I appreciate all that you are doing. It really is one of the most challenging situations I help families with. And I, you know, I'm not a financial advisor or financial planner, I'm good at helping families have difficult conversations. But to have other resources, I looked at some of the resources on your, for professionals and for families, I mean, they the resources that you have, that are even outside of your programs, resources are magnificent, and so helpful and credible. So thank you for all that you're doing. Okay. So tell us about your website, older adult nest,

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 45:59

older adult Also, I realized I have the domain name, and got something else that everybody always asked for, you don't have to pay for this, I just thought that'd be easier for people to remember, nobody has to pay for those they go on our website, if you're a professional, if you're a could be a financial planner, could be a psychologist could be a medical provider, an elder law attorney, all those folks, physical occupational therapists, they all have a counselor website, you click on a sign up, and you create your own account, then you can get trained on our our scales and certified, and then go ahead and use and and once. Once you're trained and certified, you can either download as a PDF or use it online. On the older adult page, there's resources, there's the safe program, which describes what it is. And there's a financial vulnerability survey. And on the family and friends page, there's those four trainings plus family and friends questionnaire. And what that is, is a self report 14 items to give the caregiver a sense of how concerned from their own perspective, they are about their loved older loved ones, financial abilities, both decision making and vulnerability. And then they can even take that report to the doctors the next time they go. If they're, you know, worried about an older person share that with, with the doctor or to an attorney, or however. So those are the three sets of resources that we have. And for each there are there is a resource page, professional resources, resources for families resources for older adults. And it'll take you to all kinds of different websites, none of which none of which are selling any kind of service at all, none of which have been there. I mean, even if they were just giving information, there companies aren't selling a service that's directly related, and some that that makes it a little bit easier for us. The AARP Federal Trade Commission, Elder Justice website, which is which is really outstanding, and different reports the baker Fraud Report, we take some of the resources that they share on a weekly basis and post them so we've kept updated on what the latest COVID scams are and so forth.

Dr. Regina Koepp 48:34

Well, Peter, thank you so much for all you're doing to maintain the integrity of an older adults well being. So there's the physical health, mental health and financial health of a family and, and I really, you know, thank you for what you're doing. It's so essential. And thanks to Latoya, even though she's not here, I feel like she's here in spirit. Well, thank you so much for all that you do for older adults and their families and professionals. I can't wait to share this information with the professional groups I'm involved with. So thank you.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 49:06

Such a pleasure to be with you, Regina. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Regina Koepp 49:10

And so anybody who's interested in these resources can go to older adult nest And all of the resources are free. You only need to start an account if you're a professional. And these other surveys that Peter was mentioning are free and easy to use. I tried I started to use one myself just to see how it worked. Thank you.

Dr. Peter Lichtenberg 49:33

My pleasure.

Dr. Regina Koepp 49:36

I hope you found some useful insights in this episode with Dr. Peter Lichtenberg. I also want to remind you to check out the show notes page which is linked to wherever you're listening to this podcast. The resources will help you help family members, older adults, professionals, everyone. So check it out. Alright, that's all for today. If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. It really does make a difference. And I'll see you next week for the final episode in this four part elder abuse series. Bye for now.

Did you find value in this podcast episode?

Help others get access to the podcast by subscribing and leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts.