Is This A Soap Opera? Aging Mom And Her Live-In Boyfriend
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. She asked for a cash withdrawal of $50,000. The bank also reported the matter to Adult Protective Services (APS) as they are legally required to do. But they gave her the money with Tyler standing by.
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”. When indicated, APS reports to law enforcement and that is for criminal matters, including financial elder abuse. Never mind that financial elder abuse where Jan lives is both a civil and a criminal matter and should be prosecuted. 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. Tyler 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. At that moment, Pete could not count on the police either. Pete could not count on law enforcement. They had no paperwork for any of this.
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 has authority on Jan’s Power of Attorney, to act on her behalf in managing all her financial affairs. He is also her agent on her Healthcare Directive for all healthcare decisions, including how and where she will live.
We provided multi-faceted advice to Pete at AgingParents.com. Pete must 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 must give APS a copy of his Power of Attorney. He needs to do the same with 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 can 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. An 86-year-old with significant dementia is not going on a shopping spree with that kind of money. She is very confused and totally disoriented.
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 full 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 who will will hire helpers? These are very important questions.
- With your aging parent’s okay, get access to the bank account(s) online. That access, by itself, 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 unusual, 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 lacking in 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 its shortcomings in “non-criminal” matters. Pete will be okay as he is now taking action. Everyone will be relieved when Tyler moves out or is removed by court order.
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN-Attorney, AgingParents.com