Some senior citizens require guardianship, so someone with proper mental faculties must take over decision-making tasks regarding the person's finances and health. Unfortunately, not everyone who signs up to be a guardian is trustworthy. There are many cases of people who had their bank accounts completely cleaned out by unscrupulous guardians.
It is often best for a family member to become a loved one's legal guardian rather than rely on someone appointed by the court. However, regardless of who ends up in the role, it is important for family members to watch vigilantly for any unusual activity in the individual's financial accounts.
Signs of financial abuse
Financial abuse takes many forms. For example, perhaps the guardian has received personal payments that the court did not authorize. Loved ones who are watching a senior's finances closely may notice that he or she appears to make frequent cash withdrawals from a bank or ATM. At that point, it is important to ask the family member about these transactions to see if there is a reasonable explanation. If he or she cannot give an explanation or appears uneasy about discussing these transactions, it could be a sign of financial abuse.
Another red flag is if the guardian seems to be extremely protective of the individual to the point of isolating him or her from friends and family members. Isolation is a common method of hiding financial abuse.
Other signs of abuse
Family members should also be wary if unusual financial activity comes along with signs of physical or emotional abuse. These may take the form of clutter and dirt around the house, or an unkempt or ungroomed look that indicates the loved one is not having hygiene needs met. His or her behavior around the guardian could also be an indicator of abuse. Anyone who believes elder abuse may be present should not hesitate to contact law enforcement and Adult Protective Services.