Home Research Education Tools Resources Contact

New Dynamics of Ageing Programme Research

The ESRC follow on research funding was awarded to develop research impact from a two year research project led by Professor Mary Gilhooly, which had been funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Programme, entitled 'Detecting and preventing elder financial abuse: decision making by professionals in health, social care and banking'.

With substantial and increasing numbers of frail and cognitively impaired older people being cared for in the community, there are growing challenges associated with money handling. Financial abuse of people with dementia or declining cognitive and physical functioning is of growing concern. It is equally important to protect carers and professionals from unfair allegations of financial abuse, as it is to safeguard the assets of vulnerable older people. Although financial elder abuse is much discussed, it is poorly understood and has rarely been researched using rigorous methodologies. As a consequence, current policies on detection and intervention are not based on a sound evidence base. To enable frail and cognitively impaired older people to live happily in the community, without fear of financial exploitation, requires the reassurance of effective mechanisms to be in place for detecting and intervening in cases of financial abuse.

The aim of this project was to examine decision-making in relation to the detection of financial abuse of older people. Financial abuse was chosen as the subject of this study because it is often said to be one of the most prevalent forms of elder abuse, and yet has been one of the least studied.

dotted separation line

The methods and research questions for the three phases of the NDA study were as follows:

Phase I - In-depth interviews were conducted with health and social care professionals and staff in banking and financial services that deal with financial assets. 'Critical incident methodology' was used to determine the cues and patterns that raise suspicions of financial elder abuse and trigger intervention. The following questions guided collection and analysis of data:

1. What are the cues or patterns that are perceived as triggering suspicions of
financial abuse?

2. What 'rules of thumb' are used or have been devised to deal with these matters?

3. What kinds of decisions are made or have to be made?

4. What are the features that make decisions difficult, typical, rare, or unusual?

dotted separation line

Phase II - Experiments aimed at testing hypotheses (generated in Phase I) about decision-making using case scenarios;

1. Which case features explain the greatest variance in decision-making?

2. Which characteristics of the decision-maker help explain decision-making? Is the decision-maker's age of special relevance in decision making?

dotted separation line

Phase III - Examination of policy documents and guidelines in order make
comparisons between recommended practice and what actually happens in

1. Are there commonalities in policies and guidelines as to what cues or patterns should raise suspicions of financial elder abuse and what should then happen in terms of intervention?

2. To what extent do current policies and guidelines on detecting and intervening in cases of suspected financial elder abuse match what actually happens in situations of real world decision making?

dotted separation line

Findings from the NDA research project
NDA findings brochure