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Is your elderly parent being exposed to financial abuse?

Let us say your mother, a widow who lives alone, is about to turn 80. She has always been alert and active, but lately, you have noticed some cognitive changes.

Your mom attends an exercise class at the senior center and has made a new male friend. Is it your imagination, or is your mother becoming too dependent on her friend's financial advice?

Developing issues

When your mother begins to have trouble with basic activities, such as bathing, eating or getting dressed, she will likely have trouble with financial matters. She may forget the simple things, like how to balance her checkbook. If she begins spending more time with her new male friend, the advice he offers concerning money may eventually put her in financial hot water.

Observing behavior

If you become concerned about the possibility of financial abuse, it is time to pay more attention to the kind of behavior your mother exhibits. Is the exercise class the only activity she participates in? Has she given up her bridge club or her reading group? Outside of family and her new friend, who else does she see? Older people need friends and family around them as a support system.

What you can do

Your mother may not have physical health issues, and that is the good news. One of the most troubling aspects of growing older, however, is that cognitive issues may develop. The best next step is to alert family members who could join you in spending more time with Mom. The more social interaction she has, the less chance there will be for her new male friend, or anyone else, to take advantage of her. The time to consider a conservatorship may not be far off. Meanwhile, keep an eye on her checkbook, retirement funds and any investments she might have. If you suspect financial abuse, remember that legal options are available to ensure the situation does not get out of hand.

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