Out & About: Conference Looks to Address Elder Financial Abuse, Exploitation

Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, July 09, 2018

South Royalton — In her former job as an investigator for Vermont’s Adult Protective Services, Tori Lloyd frequently encountered financial exploitation.

“It’s a devastating crime that can break families,” said Lloyd, a lawyer and founder of Athena Advocacy, a business that provides fiduciary, guardianship and care advocacy services. “There’s shame. There’s embarrassment.” Financial abuse also means seniors can go without food or medications, she said. “It shortens people’s lives.”

It’s also a pressing issue that Northern New England is trying to address because of its rapidly aging population. On July 17 and 18, elder law practitioners, financial security officers, nursing home administrators, home health care agencies, area agencies on aging, social service groups and government regulators will come together at the first tri-state “Addressing Elder Financial Abuse and Exploitation” conference at Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

The cost to attend ranges from $20-$60; those interested can register at http://www.fastofamerica.org/vt/.

The conference is being hosted by the Vermont Financial Abuse Specialty Team, known as FAST, a nonprofit organization founded by Lloyd when she worked for Adult Protective Services. Maine and New Hampshire also have similar units.

“The genesis of this conference is really wanting to bring together what I call financial exploitation responders to talk about what they’re doing in their states, what’s working and what’s not, from laws to policy,” Lloyd said, adding that one of the goals is “to share in that knowledge and be more efficient about the work we all do.”

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan will be the keynote speaker. Last month, Donovan officially launched the Elder Protection Initiative, which is a unit of the AG’s office that will assist and protect senior citizens in the Green Mountain State.

“We are moving into an era where it is more essential than ever that we Vermonters collaborate to support the well-being of our older community members,” Donovan said in a news release. One of the unit’s first projects is working with Vermont 211, the community services and information hotline administered through United Ways of Vermont, to better inform residents about where they can turn when they have concerns about elder abuse and exploitation.

“One of the common concerns we heard was that older Vermonters and caretakers don’t know where to go to learn about what programs and services are available,” Donovan said in the release. “Vermont 211 can help.”

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald will discuss the state’s Elder Abuse and Exploitation Unit and its efforts to combat financial exploitation. Other scheduled speakers include Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Ricker Hamilton and Talitha Guinn-Shaver from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative.

“The majority of financial exploitation is from family members,” Lloyd said, adding that’s one of the reasons “why this issue is so much in the shadows. People do not want to report.”

Another reason: Senior citizens want to remain independent. “They don’t want to admit that they made a mistake,” Lloyd said. “It’s really being able to reach out for help and know that people will not be judged.”

The three states are working on ways to best help their citizens who have been exploited.

“They’re evolving to do more,” Lloyd said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.