October 20th, 2010 at 5:10 pm
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When Relatives Con Elderly Individuals

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

It’s bad enough when strangers who are con artists lie, cheat and commit fraudulent acts against vulnerable and too-trusting elderly individuals. Sometimes those con artists are not strangers to your elders. Sometimes the con men and women are your blood-line relatives. When that happens, it must hurt like no one business. I can only imagine.

Earlier this year, I was galled when one of my long-time friends shared with me that her elderly mother, a long-time friend of our family, had signed over Durable Power of Attorney to a relative who is not an offspring to my friend’s aging mother. My blood boiled as I listened to the tale.

It took me all of 2 seconds to refer my friend to her mother’s state Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division. Regardless of whether my friend were to win such a complaint, or not, is almost secondary to the overarching principle. My friend’s mother, and by default, my friend, have been bamboozled, by a serpentine relative, who is now laughing all the way to the bank. The relative shark also finagled her way to a $5,000 check from my friend’s mother.

This cautionary tale of elder abuse is intended as a wake-up call for all adult children to elderly individuals. Whether or not you have an inheritance forthcoming from either of your aging parents, be vigilant of strangers, and non-sibling relatives who may see a cash-cow in your aging, chronically ill parents.

My friend has never been remiss in providing on-again, off-again assistive care support to her elderly mother. The elder financial hijack moment happened in the twinkling of an eye, while my friend happened to be on a far-away vacation. While my friend was on vacation, her mother had to be hospitalized. That is where it all began. It was that simple for an unethical relative to step-in, and hastily make the legal and financial maneuvers necessary to commit elder fraud.

I am neither an attorney nor a politician. I do see a need for a legally-mandated quality control measure whenever such binding decisions are executed by elders. Such a measure would bring greater transparency to the process. It might be as simple as requiring an elder to meet with a hospital-based patient advocate, nursing home ombudsman, or, other private sector entity to affirm that the elder has neither been coerced nor unduly influenced to make the legally binding decision.

Elderly individuals deserve greater social respect and dignity in their golden years.

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