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Financial Elder Abuse a Disturbing Reality

By Andrew Burgon /
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September 2, 2014

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Image by Peter Paul Rubens / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Financial Elder Abuse is a Cold, Hard Reality for a Surprising Amount of Elderly People

Financial elder abuse is happening on a scale that I think would surprise many people if they took the time to look into the matter. Around the world every year people are preying on the elderly. It ranges from caregivers being paid to look after someone but who don’t do the job to the extent they should right through to having their money completely siphoned off by some very despicable people.

Financial elder abuse may take place in their own homes, in relatives’ homes or in long-term care facilities. Sadly, the abuse may come from their own adult children, grandchildren, neighbors and caregivers. One of the most prevalent is financial abuse. This article will cover three disturbing abuse cases and the many ways money is extracted from seniors.

Katsu & Charles Bradley and their parasitic, live-in caregiver

Katsu and Charles Bradley of Tacoma, Washington had saved enough money to help them live comfortably through their retirement years and owned their own home. Due to both of them having dementia, Norma Cheesman was hired to be a live-in caregiver and was paid $US5000 a month. Norma lost no time in seizing their nest egg. Within months she had manipulated 86 year old Charles Bradley to give her power of attorney, name her as his beneficiary and disinherit his wife.

The court papers dealing with the case asserted that Norma had Charles withdraw lots of money from his account to pay for her home. She was also accused of engineering a reverse mortgage on their home and filling her pockets with the money. The prosector claimed that Cheesman would of had to have guided Katsu Bradley’s hand to sign her name on the loan document because it’s unlikely she would have been able to do it herself due to her condition. The estimated cash losses were over $300,000 and their home went into foreclosure. When Charles and Katsu died in 2008 they had less than $400 in the bank.

Not surprisingly, Norma vanished. She did not show up for three court hearings and nobody knew where she was. The judge eventually issued a warrant for her arrest. Meanwhile, Charles’ daughter spent $US100,000 on legal fees and won two civil suits against Cheesman albiet in her absence.

Cheesman was detained a while later entering America from Mexico. She was due for an appearance in a Californian court and it was hoped to extradite her back to King County the following month.

Elsie Brook’s assets drained away by daughter and granddaughter

Elsie Brook decided to sell her mobile home and move in with her daughter and granddaughter in Monterey, California. She was 72 and put them in control of her finances. They proceeded to drain her of jewelry, furniture and an annuity worth close to $90,000. In the end, Elsie found herself at a nursing home. Her daughter and granddaughter were convicted of grand theft and financial elder abuse.

Mickey Rooney: The Elders’ Advocate

Actor Mickey Rooney helped raise the wattage on the despicable practice of elder abuse by making his own plight very public. In front of a Senate subcommittee he courageously revealed the shame and humiliation he had been subjected to. He urged them to do something about the growing problem.

“For years I suffered silently, unable to muster the courage to seek the help I knew I needed.” Mickey Rooney

He filed restraining orders and later was granted court protection from his stepson and stepdaughter who he claimed had verbally, emotionally and financially abused him as well as denying him such basic necessities as food and medicine. Threats, intimidation and harassment had made him feel like a prisoner in his own home. He accused his stepson of taking control over his finances, blocking access to his mail and forcing him into doing performances he didn’t want to do.

Below are some of the ways money is drained away from the elderly.

* Misuse of an elder person’s personal checks, credit cards or accounts.
* Changes to the wills, power of attorney and insurance policies.
* Stealing cash, income checks or household goods.
* Forging the elder’s signature or engaging in outright identity theft.
* Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device. * Paying too much for groceries.
* Scams like phony charities,investment fraud and lottery scams.
* Strong manipulative tactics like someone threatening to abandon, hit or harm you till you give them what they want. * The caregiver refusing to provide needed care and medical services so he or she can pocket the amount saved.
* In-home care providers not doing what they are paid to do, keeping change from money they spent on behalf of the elder and asking a vulnerable adult to sign falsified time sheets.

Some Words of Caution Concerning Power of Attorney

One of the worst forms of financial abuse is done via power of attorney. An elderly person gives someone written authorization enabling the person to act for him or her including financial affairs. Many people have used this as a license to steal.

In many cases, the elderly person may be suffering from dementia or has become frail and weak and had no choice but to entrust someone. In the worst cases, people with dementia have been manipulated by a complete stranger and has given the power of attorney over to him or her.

As the baby boomers retire in their droves financial abuse aimed at elderly people is only going to increase. While it is a good thing that governments have noticed the problem and have implemented certain measures to combat it it’s not enough. Elderly people and their adult children need to educate themselves on the ins and outs of elder abuse and vigilantly guard against it.

Do you have any thoughts or stories to add to ‘Financial Elder Abuse?’

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