Unfortunately, seniors are often the target of financial exploitation, and even more unfortunately, it is often family members who are doing the exploiting. Just this morning, my office received a call from one of our caregivers expressing concern about one of our clients. In this case, extended family members may be stealing funds from the senior who is suffering from dementia. I cannot begin to explain how angry this makes me when I hear about seniors being abused by their own family! Of course, our office is reporting this to our local Area Agency on Aging, and an investigation will be conducted. But since this is something that I see happening over and over again, I just want to remind you what to look for if you feel your loved one is being exploited.
- Does Mom or Dad have unpaid bills stacking up?
- Are there bank withdrawals or transfers on statements that he or she cannot explain?
- Are the bank statements missing or no longer being mailed to their home?
- Does Mom or Dad suddenly have a new close friend?
- Is Mom or Dad withdrawing from you or other family and friends?
- Is there a change in their mood such as anxiety, fear or agitation?
- Is Mom or Dad suddenly unwilling to talk to you about their personal affairs?
- Did Mom or Dad suddenly change banks or attorneys?
You can help protect your senior loved ones from financial abuse by doing a number of things, but the most important thing you can do is maintain frequent communication with them. Many seniors are subject to loneliness, so they are vulnerable to schemers who suddenly want to be their friend.
If Mom or Dad don’t want to discuss their financial affairs with you, then suggest an independent third party review their finances and also review any financial documents before they are signed.
Visit your loved ones often – in person, not just over the phone or by email. Oftentimes, cheerfulness in an email or during a phone call can mask red flags.
Pay attention to red flags. Trust your gut instincts, and don’t try to talk yourself out of listening to that inner voice. If you have concerns, chances are, those concerns are well-founded and corrective action should be taken as soon as possible. Don’t let your mom or dad or your grandparents be victims. Protect them – they need you, whether they admit it or not.