A 97-year-old woman with dementia has found that tens of thousands of dollars are missing from her bank account without her knowledge, so she reported it to her bank.
The bank has found that all her money was transfered to another person’s account – the woman’s power of attorney.
However, when the police asked the power of attorney about the money, the power of attorney said it was because the the woman wanted her to have the money and leave everything to her.
You might be confused about who is telling the truth, but this is a real case that happened in Ontario, Canada, back in 2020, and is a typical example of elder financial abuse.
What is Elder Financial Abuse?
According to the definition. Elder financial abuse means “any inappropriate behavior, with or without the informed consent of the older person, that results in monetary or personal gain for the abuser and/or monetary or personal loss for the older person.” which means elder financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse.
Trust takes years to build, but destruction takes only seconds and can have a serious impact on a person’s health.
In the story above, the woman’s savings were misappropriated by someone she trusted and was destroyed both financially and emotionally. It sounds harsh, but unfortunately, that’s how most stories of financial abuse in older adults go.
Financial abuse can be categorized into the following three ways:
Stealing an elder’s valuables
Taking control of an elder’s power of attorney
Using the elder’s cash or credit cards without permission
Most of these cases are done by someone that the older person trusts, or someone who has always been with the senior – which means they could be family, friends, lawyers, or caregivers.
Today, we are going to talk about elder financial abuse that happens in long-term care homes, and what we could do about it as their family.
How to Recognize If Someone Is Experiencing Financial Abuse
Your Loved One Suddenly Has a New Good Friend”
When family members are not around, older adults tend to seek companionship. Therefore, they become more vulnerable and passive when people with bad intentions approach them. It is important to be on the lookout for any new “friendships” that seniors may form. If your loved one begins to rely on this new “best friend” in many ways, even defending their relationship when you have doubts. It is not a good sign, as a good friendship will not keep this person out of their family.
Reporting Missing Belongings
If your loved one starts to complain about losing or missing something, it could be that someone has taken them from him or her. Note that seniors with cognitive impairment such as dementia may accuse others of stealing from them as well, so it is better to observe for a period of time to see if it is true.
Unusual Banking Activity
If you and your loved one have a joint account and see unusual activity. For example, a large bank withdrawal, or a large payment to an unfamiliar account. That’s when it’s time to pay attention! This would be a “deadly trap” where someone is pressuring or enticing your loved one to make a payment, or worse! Your loved one’s card is stolen or controlled by someone else. This would be a “dead giveaway” that someone is pressuring or enticing your loved one to pay, or worse, if your loved one’s card is stolen or controlled by someone else.
Sudden Change Of Will Or Power Of Attorney
As in the story above. You already know that a financial power of attorney represents the financial and legal affairs of a client. Therefore, if it is transferred to someone other than a close friend or family member for no apparent reason. This would be a red flag that someone is trying to take advantage of you.
There are some other indicators. Such as signed documents that the senior does not understand, overdue bills and a decline in standard of living. Seniors may not notice these signs, so it is the family’s responsibility to watch their financial situation. There are many agencies and programs designed to combat financial exploitation, and you should get them involved as soon as any of these signs appear.
How To Report Elder Financial Abuse
Remember what you do when you have suspicious activities going on in your bank account? For senior financial abuse, the bank and credit unions can help to investigate if there’s any misappropriation happening to the card holder as well. If the case is confirmed, the employees at the financial institution will report it as financial abuse immediately.
Law Enforcement Agencies
It is always crucial to work with the police and investigate the abuse. Financial exploitation is a crime and you have right to report it and protect your loved one. Also, it will help to prevent more victims from falling into the trap of financial fraudsters.
Long-Term Care Regulation Institutions And Senior Abuse Prevention Lines
There are many long-term care regulation institutions across North America. In Ontario, we have the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that is in charge of this. The ombudsman will investigate and escalate the case for you. In addition, you can call the senior’s safety line, where staff will be on the line 24/7 for you, and it is toll free.
How To Prevent Financial Abuse As Their Family
Prevention is better than a cure. It is always good to prevent senior financial exploitation before it is too late. There are some ways to help you with it, which include:
Signing Up For Services That Track Their Account
You can use tracking tools such as EverSafe to track missing deposits, unexplained withdrawals, or abrupt changes in spending patterns that take place in your loved one’s account. Or, you can have a joint account with your loved one and see the activity.
Setting Up a Trusted Contact For the Account
If there is abnormal activity going on in the account and the bank is unable to reach the one who holds the account. Then, the bank will report it to the account’s trusted contact. The trusted contact may be given access to the account’s details as a view only user. However, he or she will be unable to make any transactions on account holder’s behalf.
Staying In Touch With Your Loved One
Nothing is better than maintaining a close relationship with your loved one. In fact, more senior financial abuse cases happen to the ones who are chronically lonely. After all, if your loved ones can’t reach you when they need, they can only trust the people that approach them
Geting To Know Their Caregivers
No matter if it is in-home care or long-term care, it is important for the family to know the caregiver of their loved one. In one of our previous blog posts, we talked about how screening caregivers is crucial in the hiring process (Top 10 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Home Care Agency). Screening and observing do not stop after you hire the caregiver. Do this by using the CareStory profile service, which will allow you to track caregiver activities during care.