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Financial Elder Abuse Prevention: Put Safeguards in Place

By Andrew Burgon /
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October 31, 2013

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financial elder abuse prevention
Nicolaes Maes [Public domain]

Ideas on Financial Elder Abuse Prevention That May Save You a Lot of Heartache

Giving some thought to financial elder abuse prevention is not only for your own sake but the sake of your children as well. Measures need to be put in place not only by the elderly but their adult children may need to help guard against abuse at some point. It is in both their interests to do so as the resulting financial and emotional aftermath of a worst case scenario can be devastating financially to the elderly person and a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster ride for loved ones.

A Financial Mess to Avoid

The case of an American couple, Charles and Katsu Bradley, illustrates the worst case scenario. Their live-in caregiver took advantage of their dementia and managed to syphon off over $US300,000 from their life savings. Their home ends up in foreclosure and they died with less than $US400 in the bank. The daughter spent $US100,000 on legal feels to win two civil suits against the caregiver despite the fact that she had vanished.

It’s unpleasant to imagine being either the financially destitute couple or their troubled daughter. The couple were robbed of their life savings and their daughter may never come to terms with the ghastly thought of a parasitic person worming her way into the lives of her parents. Her peace of mind lost, her inheritance gone and the resultant troubles that lay ahead.

Hiring an attorney in the States may end up costing you between $20,000 – $40,000 in legal expenses and no guarantee that what was stolen will be returned and that the legal fees will ever be reimbursed. Also, it could take a while before a trial date is set and the court case may drag on for some time. In the daughter’s case, the road of vengeance and justice cost her $US100,000 to win two civil suits against the caregiver.

Too add to the injury is the fact that elderly people like Charles and Katsu may be unable to replace lost assets due to unemployability. They may have difficulty hiring an attorney and covering expenses for long term care. Their children may end up having to help them finanicially. Safe to say that preventive measures are in order.

Financial Elder Abuse Prevention

For the elderly, it’s important to educate yourself concerning elder abuse. An hour or two researching on-line will quickly bring you in touch with many of it’s dark facets. Being forewarned is forearmed and your new found knowledge will help you implement safeguards and quickly alert you in the future to suspicious activities.

Make sure your financial and legal affairs are in order. Handle your finances as long as you can. Keep in mind that even if you are bedridden many kinds of payments can be automatically paid for through your bank. There are also charities, churches, friends and family that can help you in various ways.

There may come a time due to sickness, disability or dementia that you need to sign a legal document like power of attorney so that someone can help you handle your financial affairs. If so, choose carefully granting the power of attorney to someone you completely trust if possible. Note that financial abuse of elders has often come from family members and relatives.

Here’s where I begin to sound paranoid. If I regrettably had to give someone the power of attorney I would first speak to an attorney about how to limit the power of attorney including safeguards I could put in place. I would then arrange a meeting in my living room with my family, close relatives and friends some of whom might tune in via Skype. It would be a kind of public handing-over ceremony.

If it was my son I was entrusting the responsibility to I would emphasize to all those present at the ceremony the legal responsibility of power of attorney as well as informing everyone of the safeguards that are in place to protect me. I would openly speak of things that concerned me in the future and ask certain people to check-up on me in the coming years.

If the early signs of dementia was the reason I was doing this I would make it known what personal property I would never want sold. I would give all present a copy of the list. If they noticed any of it was missing they would enquire as to what happened. I might even have someone on the odd occasion come in and check on my finances as well as do an inventory of my personal belongings and make it public knowledge that it was going to happen.This person could report back to family and close friends. If I had more than one child then I might ask that they all be reviewing my finances.

Avoid becoming isolated as it can make you an easy prey. Maintain social contacts and get involved in social and community activities.

Consider setting-up a buddy system with a friend outside the home. Contact each other every month and be mindful of each other’s well-being.

You may wish to install hidden video cameras in places like the living room and bedroom which can be viewed by a trusted family member or friend. With today’s technology this video feed could be viewed by a friend or family member anywhere in the world. I say this because frail adults who are suffering from dementia are more likely to suffer abuse. There was a case of  a man who put a hidden camera in a nursing home and had his suspicions confirmed when he saw staff abusing his mother…

Finally, speak up if you are on the receiving end of abuse. If you are unable to do it yourself ask someone you trust to report abuse to an elder abuse helpline.

Family Preventive Measures

For family members, keep in contact with your elderly parents. Be mindful of their well-being and alert to anything suspicious. Openly discuss with them at some point if there is anything they feel anxious about now that they are seniors. Forge a supportive alliance with them and encourage them to contact you on the sign of any abuse or suspicious activity.

Before making the offer to have an elderly parent live with you carefully examine your family’s ability to provide long-term care. The stress that this can create may cause problems that you may regret later. Be sure to ask friends who are doing this what it’s like or get on the internet and find out what other peoples’ experiences are.

Give a frail and elderly parent living with you respect and a certain measure of privacy and independence.

If your parent is going to a nursing home check it out first. Unfortunately, even nursing homes can be places of abuse. Ask the elderly living at the nursing home what it’s like living there preferably when a nurse or doctor isn’t standing within hearing distance. Check on-line to see if anyone has written something negative about it. You may find there is a group of people you can join who have parents at the nursing home who have banded together and meet up on the odd occasion to talk about matters concerning the nursing home and it’s patients. Also research common problems that arise at nursing homes.

A little due diligence in educating yourself about elder abuse and implementing preventive measures will hopefully lead to a retirement free of any major incident for yourself or your elderly parent.

If you can think of anymore important considerations please comment below.

Can you think of anything else to add to ‘Financial Elder Abuse Prevention?’ Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. I just wish to highlight the issue and present some helpful ideas. In legal matters seek professional advice from an attorney.
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