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Caregiving Chronicles

News and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and beyond.

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Caregiving Chronicles will present news and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and around the world, in-depth Q&As with experts in fields related to caregiving and updates and announcements about caregiving resources available in MetroWest from CaregivingMetroWest.org Program Director Douglas Flynn.


Caregiving Chronicles Q&A: What caregivers should know about financial exploitation of older adults
By Douglas Flynn / April 20, 2018

Editor’s note: The Caregiving Chronicles blog has partnered with the Natick Visiting Nurse Association to bring additional expert information and advice to the MetroWest caregivers we strive to serve at CaregivingMetroWest.org. The Natick VNA has allowed Caregiving Chronicles to get some valuable insight from its staff for our ongoing series of Q&A sessions with caregiving experts.  

In this entry, we discuss some of the important issues involving the financial exploitation of older adults, what caregivers should know about it and how to prevent it. Providing insight is Juanita Allen Kingsley, Wilderness EMT, who is the Director of Business Development for Natick VNA. 

A health educator, she trains more than 2,000 people in the MetroWest region annually through her First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, CPR and AED classes in addition to the variety of health and safety programs she teaches. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Boston University and completed EMT training at Northeastern University. She received her Wilderness EMT training certification through Mountain Aid Training International. 

For more information, visit www.natickvna.org or call 508-651-1786.
 

Caregiving MetroWest: What is financial exploitation and why are seniors particularly vulnerable to financial abuse?
Juanita Allen Kingsley:  Financial abuse is the unauthorized use of an individual’s property, money or pension. It can involve unauthorized changes to an individual’s will or improper obtaining of power of attorney.

Every year seniors lose up to $36.5 billion from various types of financial abuse and exploitation. This is a serious matter and one that deserves attention, particularly for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. These cognitive conditions make older adults even more susceptible to scammers and criminals.

If no relatives live nearby and no friends regularly check in, it's easy for strangers to step in and befriend an elderly person for financial gain. As elders become less able to maintain their homes, more service providers may have entry into their homes and property to perform tasks that they used to do themselves. Whenever possible, close friends or relatives of an older person should be present during a contract signing or when home repairs are done to decrease the risk of contractor fraud.

CGMW: What are some of the most common forms of financial exploitation that seniors should be aware of?
Kingsley:
Financial abuse can take many forms, ranging from investment scams, bogus lottery schemes and stolen jewelry to identity theft, credit card misuse and forged checks. Sadly, most perpetrators of financial abuse aren’t strangers. 

CGMW: With taxes having just come due this month, are there any special precautions to take or threats to be aware of in regard to filing your taxes?
Kingsley:
 First, make sure that the taxes are even being worked on! We often learn of elders who have stopped paying bills or doing their taxes for years, because they didn’t feel competent to do so anymore, but were too embarrassed to ask for help or unaware that they needed help. Enlist the help of a tax professional to see what dementia/elder care costs may be tax deductible.

CGMW: What are some of the warning signs that a caregiver should watch for to help prevent their elder loved one from falling prey to financial exploitation?
Kingsley:
Unfortunately, 90 percent of elder financial abuse is perpetrated by a family member or friend. If a caregiver has a sudden change in lifestyle, family should be concerned. A history of substance abuse or a history of financial problems are also “red flags.”

CGMW: What should someone do if they or a loved one have been the victim of financial exploitation? 
Kingsley:
You must report the exploitation! In Massachusetts, you should call 800-922-2275 or visit the National Center on Elder Abuse for more information. 

CGMW: Are there any special concerns regarding financial exploitation that a caregiver should have if their loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another dementia?
Kingsley:
Alzheimer’s or other dementias make elders more vulnerable to financial exploitation, so family members should be even more concerned about the potential for financial abuse. 

CGMW: Unfortunately, there are times when older adults are exploited financially by their own family members or friends. What should someone due if they fear that a loved one if taking advantage of them or someone they are caring for?
Kingsley:
This is the most common dilemma. Even when confronted with the evidence of a family member taking advantage of him/her, the elder may not want to confront the problem of being exploited financially. They may be afraid of retribution, they may be afraid of being left alone or they may genuinely love the family member who is caring for them, but is also exploiting them financially. 

This topic reminds us all that advance planning is necessary. Put in place a financial power of attorney. This is a legal document, based on state law, that empowers a succession of individuals to make financial decisions and handle administrative affairs on behalf of your loved one. 

Create a profile of all names, contact information of the banking, financial, and other legal institutions/professionals your loved one is engaged with. Add your name to all of their bank and financial accounts. Have a duplicate copy of each monthly statement also be delivered to you or request online access to the elder’s accounts. 

Have a second pair of eyes review each account and monitor for any irregular activity. Set up automatic bill pay and direct deposits. This doesn’t just save time, it keeps your loved one away from bill paying, which can prevent mistakes and won’t create easy opportunities for scammers. 

Do your research on individuals providing care for your aging parent. Ask for background checks on caregivers or in-home care providers. Keep checkbooks, credit cards, passports, etc. locked and out of sight from professional caregivers and service providers who are in the home.



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