Carolyn and Mikol here.
We hope all of you are well and that the Moms out there will enjoy your special day. Happy Mother’s Day to each of you!
As for our aging moms, here’s a reminder about a persistent and growing $2.9 billion a year problem.
Our aging loved ones are targets. The thieves are extremely good at stealing. They see our parents are an easy mark, If you will be visiting or calling your mom on this Mother’s Day, think about these things and keep Mom close to your heart. Aging moms and dads too need our vigilant protection, no matter how independent they seem.
Two ruthless swindlers were arrested in New York for tricking an elderly woman out of her multimillion-dollar property in Harlem she had owned for over 40 years.
A home care worker bilked a frail elder out of her life’s savings of $350,000. Grandchildren get loans from grandparents without any intention of repaying them. Unethical salesmen touting unsuitable annuities seduce unsuspecting elders. A few scheming realtors take advantage of forgetful seniors. Even lawyers prey on unsuspecting or impaired elders to rip them off.
Mikol’s mom, Alice, is 89 and still very sharp. Someone tried to rip her off by sending her a legitimate looking check for $3800, advising that she was the second place winner of a sweepstakes. She does play various sweepstakes. All she had to do, of course, was to deposit it and “pay the taxes” on her “winnings”. Of course the check is rubber and the money is gone before the elder finds out that it has bounced.
Classic scam. Alice called the number and quickly realized that it was a phony outfit. Not everyone’s aging parent is lucky enough to be so alert to this kind of fraud.
What we know from research into Alzheimer’s Disease is that one’s judgment about financial transactions may be the first thing to become impaired when the disease is in the earliest stages. “Mild cognitive impairment” as doctors may call it, is not so mild when you think about the financial damage that can result. And the elder with this early warning sign of dementia may be living independently, paying taxes on time and otherwise appearing socially normal. For a time.
Vulnerable elders are truly sitting ducks, easy prey. Isolation, confusion, forgetfulness, and fears about running out of money can all drive the susceptibility to entering into a “deal” with a clever scammer.
Here are seven basic things a family can do to reduce the risks of ripoff. Pick any that apply and please do them!
1. Check in often. If your aging parent lives alone this is crucial. One of my clients at AgingParents.com emails her dad every day to check in. Others call every day or close to it. They may not think they need this but they do.
2. Ask to be a co-signer on the main bank account in case of emergency. Some aging parents will agree and some will resist but ask regardless. It will allow you to do online monitoring of the account activity. A “new friend” who gets money from them is a huge red flag.
3. Have your parent sign a Durable Power of Attorney appointing a competent and ethical agent, which could be you, a sibling or trusted other. If cognitive decline happens, the agent can at least get the money out of the account and put into another safer one that the impaired elder can’t access. This is one way to stop the thieves who are looking for impaired elders. Nothing in the account, no gain for them.
4. Suggest having your parent use a licensed fiduciary to handle money if they don’t want you to do it. If there are issues of not trusting you, an objective professional can protect them from abuse. You might do research to find a reputable one for them.
5. Provide and encourage parents’ connection to others. Think of isolation and loneliness as two big factors in why elders get financially abused. If you can provide encouragement for them to get involved in activities, it will make them less likely to want to talk to a smooth, slick “friendly” con artist on the phone.
6. Monitor everyone who comes into your parents’ home regularly. Even the most trusted housekeeper, gardener, caregiver or bookkeeper can be tempted beyond reason when their own financial circumstances change for the worse. Your parents are all the more at risk when they trust the familiar person, who can use trust to exploit unsuspecting parents.
7. Do background checks on any home care helpers who are hired to work for Mom or Dad. The cost is modest, and you can find out a lot: bankruptcies, poor driving records, and of course, criminal convictions and civil cases.
We urge everyone to think about the risks to our aging parents. Your parent may seem fine, but be susceptible to poor money judgment. If the question of whether your elder is safe with money is on your mind, call us for a consultation. Our expertise will help you manage whatever is ahead of you.
If the decision-making is making you crazy and you don’t know where to turn, consider getting a free complimentary strategy session at AgingParents.com. It’s a start.
Meanwhile, we both send you our best.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt and Mikol Davis,