If you've recently grown concerned about the finances of a parent or other loved one who receives caregiving assistance, you're not alone -- as many as one in 20 adults over the age of 60 may fall victim to financial abuse perpetrated by a caregiver or close relative. Seniors who receive ongoing care (whether in their home or a nursing home) are particularly vulnerable targets, as they often have more available assets than other age groups, as well as a diminished ability to perceive fraudulent activity and a physical dependence on the care provider. What can you do if you suspect your loved one has been victimized by a care provider? Read on to learn more about the indicators of financial abuse, as well as what you should do if you find yourself facing this situation with a loved one.
What are some common indicators of elder financial abuse?
Although the circumstances of fraud can be very different from situation to situation, there are a number of common fraud indicators that are relatively easy to spot.
- Your relative no longer seems to have adequate funding to fulfill basic needs.
One of the first red flags you may spot involves your relative's ability to purchase necessary items, like shampoo, clothing, or shoes. Barring a large unexpected expense, most seniors operate on a fairly fixed income -- so unexplained disruptions in this income to the extent basic amenities can't be purchased may indicate a bigger problem.
- Your relative is providing what seem to be excessive gifts to the caregiver and his or her family.
If your relative has an in-home care provider or rotates through several care providers at an assisted living facility, it's natural to develop an affection and attachment to these caregivers. As a result, some unscrupulous care providers have devised ways to force seniors into providing large cash gifts or personal property (like vehicles) to the care providers. If your relative has always been frugal with money (even with family members) but is suddenly doling out thousands of dollars to the caregiver and his or her relatives, it may be time for you to step in.
- Your relative has a number of unusual withdrawals or transactions.
If you're able to gain access to your relative's bank account or credit card statements, fraud may quickly become evident through open withdrawals or account transfers to the caregiver. If you discover such fraud, you'll want to keep copies of these bank statements and any other evidence you uncover to help you build a legal case against the caregiver.
What can you do to help your loved one through this situation?
If this fraud is perpetrated by a caregiver, in addition to any criminal charges levied against this individual, your relative may have the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, your relative may be unable to effectively raise such a claim on his or her own behalf -- doing so may fall to you instead. Fortunately, with the assistance of a personal injury attorney who specializes in elder law, you'll have guidance in evaluating the merits of this claim and gathering the evidence you'll need.
If, during this process, you uncover other evidence that indicates your loved one may no longer be able to reliably make good decisions on his or her own behalf, you may also want to seek a guardianship or durable power of attorney so that you can better protect your loved one from future abuses. By becoming your loved one's guardian, you'll be able to monitor financial transactions and ensure that anyone who wants something from your relative will need to go through you first.