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Doctors poised to prevent threats to older patients

It is a difficult subject for many families to face, but the threat is there: degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease will render many elderly individuals vulnerable to fraud and theft. While it is important for families to discuss these issues when developing an elder care plan, a new survey indicates that doctors may play a significant role in helping to protect their older patients. This issue is likely to become more critical as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

According to a survey conducted by the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit group that focuses on providing education about investments, 90 percent of doctors, nurses and medical personnel polled said that dementia and other conditions make elderly patients particularly susceptible to fraud. Eight out of ten medical professionals polled said that they believed doctors could play an important role in preventing elderly patients from falling prey to con artists, though the majority pointed out that they had received no training about these matters. Just under 90 percent of those polled said that they would have no problem calling law enforcement authorities if they suspected that a patient was being taken advantage of.

One option is to make information about scams targeted at elderly individuals part of doctors’ continuing medical education training. Approximately 61 percent of doctors polled said that they would be interested in this sort of learning opportunity. In some communities, groups are stepping up efforts to educate the public about these sorts of crimes, but it is important to get as many people as possible involved. 

Source: Star Tribune, “Health beat: Could doctors diagnose fraud?” Dan Browning, June 15, 2013

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