Dementia can disrupt even the coziest living arrangements between unmarried older adults. Cognitive impairment can set your aging parent up for financial manipulation. It’s very convenient for the live-in boyfriend or girlfriend to get into the partner’s bank account by coaching the impaired one to go the bank and take out money. Adult children may think things are okay, not see the parent often and not realize the dangers of cognitive impairment. Here’s a real case, unfortunately similar to other cases we see repeatedly at AgingParents.com.
Jan is 86 and has been living in her beautiful, paid-for home with Tyler, her boyfriend of 10 years. Tyler has little income and no assets. Jan has a monthly retirement income, investments and a very valuable home. Tyler began to show hostility to Jan’s son, Pete over the last year. Pete called AgingParents.com for advice, in desperation. He reported that he wanted to be sure his mom was not going to be ripped off further by Tyler. Mom’s bank called him to report that they suspected financial manipulation by Tyler when he came into the bank with Jan and coached her to ask for a cash withdrawal of $50,000. They gave it to her! The bank also reported the matter to Adult Protective Services as they are legally required to do. However, APS visited and saw that Jan is fed, clothed and clean but they did not take any legal action. APS told Pete “this is a civil matter”. Pete could not count on APS.
Pete is a mild-mannered artist who does not like confrontation. When he went to visit his mom at her home, Tyler told him she was not available. Tyler then threatened to shoot Pete if he did not leave and he called the police. The police arrived, saw that Tyler was hostile and sided with Pete but they did nothing about the threat nor Tyler’s blocking Pete from visiting his own mother. No weapon was brandished. In that moment, Pete could not count on the police either. They had no legal documents showing that he had authority over Tyler or his mom.
Pete, being very uncomfortable confronting Tyler, had been backing away for months. He has a brave buddy who will stand by him and go to the home with him. Pete needs to get his mom, who likely has dementia, to the doctor for an evaluation. Pete was given authority on Jan’s Power of Attorney, to act on her behalf in managing all her financial affairs. He was also given authority to be her agent for all healthcare decisions, including how and where she will live.
Our advice to Pete is multi-faceted.
- He was advised to make his own detailed report to APS with all the facts they don’t have about how long and how much Tyler has interfered with Pete’s efforts to keep Jan safe.
- He was also advised to get the Power of Attorney document to APS and to Jan’s bank so he can access her account and move her funds out of Tyler’s control.
- Next, he needs to take over as her trustee so that he will be able to completely manage her trust.
- He was advised to get a police escort to take his mom to the doctor to get evaluated and diagnosed so he can plan and implement appropriate care. Tyler is neglecting her.
Once Pete has control over Jan’s finances, he is within his rights as her agent to ask Tyler to move out. Tyler does have his own adult children. If they do not cooperate and take responsibility for helping their father find a different living arrangement, Tyler has the right to ask a court for a “move-out” order, like a temporary restraining order one sees in domestic violence cases. Such legal rights differ from state to state. However any court can see financial abuse with the kind of evidence available to Pete to present if needed.
No matter how long your aging parent has been living with an unmarried partner, trouble can develop with aging. When one elder has financial assets and the other does not, it’s a setup for manipulation and theft. A red flag in this case was the large withdrawal of $50K that the bank noticed. A confused and disoriented 86-year-old with significant dementia is not going on a shopping spree with that kind of money. Here are important things to consider:
- If your aging parent is forgetful and confused, be sure you know who was appointed as agent on the Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive. If it’s YOU, you may need to step in to prevent abuse. Those documents exist for your loved one’s protection. They do no good if you don’t use them. Pete waited far too long to assert any authority over Tyler, despite having authority.
- If your aging parent has money and the live-in partner does not, think about what will happen if one or the other needs caregiving. Who pays for what and where will care be given? These are very important questions.
- With your aging parent’s okay, get access to the bank account(s) online. That access may not give you authority to act but it will let you see what is happening, how much is in the account and where it is going.
If this case were rare, it might not be so concerning but it is not rare. Few of us see the depth of the problems cognitive decline can create. Adult children are best prepared by being alert to risks to an aging parent who lives with a partner who does not have financial assets. Any person like Tyler who tries to isolate the elder from family is likely trying to hide something. The law can help prevent or stop financial abuse of elders but you need to understand how to use it for their protection. Pete will be okay as he is now taking action. Everyone will be relieved when Tyler moves out or is removed by court order.
Here at AgingParents.com you can get advice so you know what to do if your aging parent is vulnerable to ripoffs by anyone else. Call us at 866-962-4464 so you can create a concrete action plan to keep your loved one safe. Don’t wait the way Pete did. Things got more complicated and worse by his backing away from the abuser.
By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, AgingParents.com