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Hiding in plain sight: Elderly financial abuse within a family

The elderly are besieged with scams as close as their front doors, particularly over the summer months. So-called window salespeople, alleged stockbrokers, and supposed in-home care “professionals” prey on older people. These unfriendly neighborhood con artists” offer “services” too good to be true.

Sadly, predators can come in other forms. Family members hide in plain site with, at best, dubious intentions. They exploit the isolation of those who are trusting to a fault and just want someone around. Even more tragically, they succeed far too often in getting an elderly loved one to part with their money.

Safeguarding a vulnerable, elderly family member from financial abuse should include the following steps:

  • Be proactive. A power of attorney should accompany an estate plan developed while the elder family member is still in good health.
  • Drafting financial powers of attorney should not be placed in the hands of one person. Think of it as a family affair, particularly when mental or physical incapacity is a factor. The eyes of many loved ones should be on those with authority to make money-related decisions.
  • Issues related to expenses need to be a group discussion between caregivers and family members. Specific costs for institutional care versus home care should be on the agenda. Equally as important is identifying the available resources of the elder to pay for either option.
  • Paper trails are paramount to avoid “under the table” transactions. Cash should never go towards out-of-pocket bills or home health care agency services.

Identifying and preventing abusive situations is easier said than done. Vulnerable elderly loved ones deserve attention from their family members, both financially and personally.

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