Doctors to check on financial well-being of elderly patients

    Area physicians will soon be trained to identify and report victims of financial fraud among their elderly patients. New training programs in 23 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico aim to raise awareness among primary-care physicians about the mild cognitive impairment that can come with old age. It can put elders at higher risk for financial fraud.

    State securities commissions across the country, including the Pennsylvania Securities Commission, are partnering with medical groups to train physicians on how to spot financial fraud and report it to authorities. Because patients trust their primary-care physicians, those doctors make smart partners in spotting and stopping scams, said Tom Michlovick, Pennsylvania Securities commissioner.

    “Because of their closeness,” Michlovick said, physicians “often hear stories of financial mismanagement, but don’t know where to go.”

    In Pennsylvania, doctors will be shown how to spot signs of mild cognitive impairment in the elderly. They will be trained to ask questions to determine if at-risk patients are being swindled.

    Doctors also will be given information on how to refer cases to appropriate authorities, including the Pennsylvania Securities Commission or Adult Protective Services.

    Robert Roush, a geriatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, designed a pilot program for the trainings that are now being adapted across the country. He said physicians can give a fraud screening to those determined to be at risk in about three minutes, while performing a physical exam, or have a nurse do it afterward.

    Roush said physicians can bring up screening questions during a checkup in the course of regular conversation.

    For example, if a physician finds out a patient’s husband recently died, Roush said a doctor could ask how she is doing, then check in on her financial situation.

    “Hope you’re getting along OK … Having any problems with money management?” Roush said. “You just kind of open it up like that.”

    Training in Pennsylvania will begin with University of Pennsylvania doctors this spring, then spread to continuing education seminars and medical schools around the state.

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