A good friend recently shared with me how his father was broke as he gave his last $25,000 to individuals who preyed on his elderly condition. My mother today still gets as much mail as I do from past organizations she supported. She now has Alzheimer’s and I handle her financial affairs. We all want our independence and will many times fight to keep it. However, being a CPA, I hear frequent stories of various people or relatives taking advantage of the elderly generation financially.
There are many forms of elder abuse, some of the different types are outlined as the following:
Crooked Contractor- Having individuals solicit at the door for home repairs.
Ways to counter this: Hire a licensed contractor for jobs exceeding $500 and get at least 3 bids to insure you are getting market value for the work and never pay more than 10% of a project cost in advance and never more than $1000 in advance.
Fraud- Telemarketing is a widespread industry. Sweepstakes scams or a relative leaving an inheritance is a common occurrence.
Ways to counter this: Do not be afraid to hang up. Do not let anyone in your home. Either bring what they want outside or say you do not have it. Subscribe to national and state do not call lists. Never respond to e-mails or visitors informing you have won something you are sure you did not enter. Do not help solve a stranger’s dilemma. Police and other agencies are paid to do this.
Mail Fraud– Foreign lotteries or inheritance seems to be popular. They normally will ask you to send money in order to receive your prize, and some even send a check for you to deposit first.
Ways to counter this: Never send money to collect lottery winnings or claim an unknown inheritance. Never accept a check for more and wire back the difference.
Pharmaceutical Scams– Purchase of medical devices and internet pharmacies are everywhere and many people are taken advantage of this way.
Ways to counter this: Only receive medical advice or medication from a licensed doctor. Stay away from internet pharmacies, as most are illegitimate.
Elder abuse is estimated to cost older Americans more than 2.6 billion a year. Even actor Mickey Rooney testified in court that he was victim of this type of abuse.
Beware of a new friend offering to assist in running tasks and errands for you. Instead, have someone you trust like a neighbor, caregiver, or sibling help with these tasks.
Tips for the children: Help your parents watch for any unusual activity by reviewing their banking accounts.
Visit- One of the most important prevention techniques is to visit your parents often, as unscheduled visits can give a true picture of their environment and decision making.
Having a parent with Alzheimer’s has opened my eyes to the world of assisted living, nursing homes, caregivers etc. Generally, older Americans in some form of care do not seem to get many visitors! Over the past four years of my mother’s assisted living facility has had around 20-30 residents. It holds a maximum of six residents but death, financial and more extensive needs are reasons residents are no longer there. I have met few visitors over this four year period. Currently, she stays at a nursing home for therapy. This is a larger facility with 132 beds; unfortunately long-term patients are known to have very few visitors there as well. While this does not qualify as abuse, it can be just as sad.
Depression and isolation can be enemy of the older American.
a) Take part in special activities at their facility
b) Bring children whenever possible
c) Bring a favorite snack (check with the staff for any dietary restrictions)
We are getting older and will one day depend on our children or relatives for assistance. I was encouraged by the Alzheimer’s Association to get a Power of Attorney for my mother at the beginning of her diagnosis. I would encourage children to be proactive sooner than later in this area as a second set of eyes cannot hurt. Most parents who are older would likely welcome the help. I would recommend periodically looking at the checks they write and discussing anything that looks unusual. These conversations could give you early warning signs that perhaps they are becoming a victim of elder abuse. We must be advocates for our loved ones and choose trusted team members to help us and it would be ideal to do this well ahead of the need!