Protecting Seniors From Financial Abuse

protecting seniors from financial abuse

According to the American Banking Association, seniors control more than 70% of the nation’s wealth. Unfortunately, that statistic combined with the vulnerabilities inherent in the aging process (living alone, cognitive decline, inability to hear/understand things clearly, etc.), make the senior population particularly vulnerable to financial abuse.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prevent this insidious form of elder abuse, to keep precious seniors and their financial assets safe, and protecting seniors from criminals.

Tips For Protecting Seniors Finances

Have conversations about finances, future plans, and financial fraud

For many households, the subject of finances is considered private or taboo. Unfortunately, keeping this subject in the dark makes it easier for senior financial abuse to take place without anyone being the wiser until it’s too late.

If you’re comfortable, have a family meeting with senior loved ones and broach this subject honestly and directly. Reviewing something like Investopedia’s 10 Tips to Avoid Common Financial Scams, is a general and safe place to start.

Since isolation and cognitive decline (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) make seniors more vulnerable, check in regularly or help out with tracing bill payments and pay attention to any “new” friends or companions that seem suspicious.

You can also read, Difficult Topics with Family Members, for tips on protecting seniors and addressing the spectrum of things that come up as our loved one’s age.

Provide financial planners and brokers with a trusted contact

The bulk of many seniors’ retirement accounts and financial assets are held or monitored by their financial planners or brokers. That’s why the new Finra rule, requiring brokers to get the name of a “trusted contact” is a smart move and one that should help to stop financial elder abuse – or at least red flag it – before it has dramatic consequences.

This law ensures that any unusual or dramatic financial moves made by a client (either a fraud acting as the client OR the client acting in compliance with a financial criminal) are brought to the attention of the “trusted contact” for evaluation and assessment.

Make sure all of your senior’s accounts have a “trusted contact” named on them to protect their interests.

Never provide SS# or sensitive information over the phone or online

There is only one time where seniors can provide their SS# or sensitive, financial information over the phone – if THEY initiated the call. If anyone ever calls and asks for that type of information over the phone, regardless of how credible the caller seems, the senior should politely hang up and then call their bank, credit card company (or whichever company said they called) to speak to a representative and verify the information requested originated from them, and not a fraud.

Have seniors choose a power of attorney

Having a Power of Attorney (POA) in place is an immediate advantage if you suspect or detect financial abuse has occurred. POAs are also helpful for communicating with your parent’s doctor or scenarios where medical directives need to be implemented.

Take advantage of free credit checks

Free credit checks are available annually (freecreditcheck.com) as well as through most banking and credit card agencies. Take advantage of this easy opportunity to see if any unusual or unfamiliar activity has taken place so it can be addressed.

Trust your instincts and verify information from trusted loved ones

Some of the most successful scams out there rely on tugging on heartstrings (a grandson in jail requiring bail or a favorite niece needing money because she’s stranded on a vacation) and wiring money that becomes untraceable. For this reason, seniors should always trust their instincts and tell the caller they need to verify information – asking them for a return number. In real life, this is reasonable; in fraud life, they’ll be told it isn’t possible to call them back or the caller will become high-pressure or belligerent – all signs the caller is a criminal.

By taking a moment to verify facts and check in with a trusted family member, elders are less likely to be taken advantage of.

Never hire unlicensed home care aids or agencies

Unfortunately, financial abuse is most likely to come from those who have close contact and proximity with a vulnerable senior. Only hire licensed caregivers and agencies, preferably working for a licensed, experienced, reputable agency. Make sure they have passed background checks and check in regularly so you’re able to suss out if anything unusual or suspicious is going on.

Warning Signs Of Financial Fraud Against Seniors

Some of the warning signs seniors are being abused financially or are at higher risk of becoming victims of financial fraud include:

  • Mental or financial frailty (this puts them at major risk)
  • Living alone
  • A relative or new friend appears out of the woodwork and is suspiciously invested in taking care of or spending time with your loved one.
  • Increased mail or calls requesting donations for organizations you’re not familiar with or have never heard them speak about in the past (can indicate they’ve donated money and are now on a shared list)
  • Their bank account is overdrawn and/or credit cards are maxed out for no obvious reason

Any one of these is cause for alarm and for further investigation.

Worried your loved one may be vulnerable or lacks the cognitive ability to manage his/her own finances and daily responsibilities? HomeAide Home Care is a licensed, homecare agency, specializing in protecting seniors and keeping them in the comfort of their home. Contact us for a free, in-home consultation and we’ll help you create a safe and secure long-term plan for your loved one.

All You Need to Know About an Advance Directive

all you need to know about an advance directive

An advance directive is something that every adult should undertake, regardless of age. Unfortunately, too many adults put it off, assuming they can do it tomorrow, or next week, or in 10 years. The reality is that an unforeseen medical emergency, terminal health diagnosis, or an accident can occur at any time. Advance care planning, which includes an Advance Directive, is a vital step in protecting your family, as well as your own well-being should you become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself.

Advance Directive 101

Your own advance directive is a very personal and legally binding document (or set of documents) that is set in place to act as your voice when your voice can’t be heard. Situations considered and addressed in an advance directive include:

  • Whether or not you want to be resuscitated and by what means. This may include a form regarding which scenarios you want to be resuscitated, and in which scenarios you do not (requires a DNR order).
  • Do you give permission for your organs and tissue to be donated?
  • The types of life support you are or are not interested in using to sustain your life.
  • The length of time you would want extreme measures to be taken to sustain your life.
  • How you feel about blood transfusions or dialysis.
  • What is your stance on artificial nutrition and artificial hydration?
  • What do you want in terms of comfort care?
  • End-of-life care?
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia care?

While these scenarios are never easy to contemplate, it is significantly easier on your loved ones if you have made this choice before they are faced with very stressful decisions in the event that something should happen to you.

A second part of the advance directive is called a durable power of attorney. This document identifies one person whom you have decided to be your spokesperson at the point where the advance directive would come into play. Choose this person very carefully, and make sure she or he has assured you your wishes will be respected.

How Do I Create An Advance Directive?

The first step is to learn all you can about advance directives and the type of information you want to have included in yours. Once you have decided, it is important that you communicate your wishes with the ones closest to you, such as your spouse, children, and siblings, to ensure they are aware of your wishes and will (hopefully) agree to abide by them.

Once you are ready to draw up the legal advance directive, you can work with an attorney, paralegal, or you can fill out pre-printed advance directive forms yourself. Here is a link to the Advance Healthcare Directive Form for the State of California. When you have completed your advance directive forms, make multiple copies. Unfortunately, if you are in a car accident, medical personnel aren’t going to have access to your advance directive unless or until a loved one provides it. You may want to keep a copy in your glove compartment, purse, briefcase, etc. Also give one to your attorney, family members, and your primary healthcare providers.

If you are living in a retirement community of any kind, provide copies to the administration and/or management personnel. If you use the assistance of a home health care provider, it is a good idea for him or her to have a copy, as well as their employer.

The sooner you take the time to get your advanced care plans in order, the sooner you can rest assured that your wishes will be honored in the event of an unforeseen accident or medical crisis. It can provide peace of mind to you and the ones you love.

What is a Living Will and Why You Need One?

Living Will for ElderlyWhile death may be a part of every life, it’s not a part we like to dwell upon. But as we get older, death becomes something we must not only deal with, but we must make plans for our death. Planning one’s demise, or at least the circumstances around it, becomes a necessity.

A living will is a written statement that you do not want life-prolonging medical procedures to be performed when your condition is hopeless and there is no chance of regaining a meaningful life. Although called a “will,” it has nothing to do with property, but rather with one’s self. It is also intended to take effect while you are living. It is an advance directive, operative only at the time you are terminally ill and unconscious, or otherwise incompetent to discuss and decide with your physician what treatment you wish.

Not only a tool to control the extent and type of medical care you receive at the end of your life, a living will can also help reduce the emotional stresses and strains felt by both your family and your doctor. You’re basically helping those who must make decisions whether to withhold, withdraw or continue medical treatment that cannot cure or reverse your terminal condition.

A living will should address your feelings on whether or not you would want these four things done to you:

  1. If your heart stopped, would you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) started?
  2. If you were unable to breathe on  your own, would you want to be put on a respirator (breathing machine)?
  3. If you were unable to eat food on your own, would you want to be fed through a stomach tube?
  4. If your kidneys stopped working, would you want to be put on a dialysis machine?

You can say yes to some actions, and no to other ones. It is your decision. It is perfectly fine to say, “I want everything done,” or “I want nothing done.” No one should ever be coerced into signing a document in which you do not feel comfortable. Speak with your doctor about these choices. They can explain the pros and cons of each intervention based on your medical concerns.

If you create an advance directive, you will still receive pain medications and other appropriate interventions. Creating an advance directive does not mean that you will be left to die or given medications to die. It is not a suicide wish or statement.

Having a living will in place ensures that you maintain control of your healthcare decisions, even at the end of life. You are protecting your loved ones and helping them to know exactly what you wish to happen should you be unable to tell them. By relieving the stress of making these decisions for you, a living will is a gift that you can give your family.

An Introduction to Elder Law

Elder law is a type of specialized law practice that is somewhat new and continuing to be developed over time.  There are a lot more specialized attorneys who work in the field of divorce, rather than that of elder law.  There is an increased need for elder law attorneys.  It’s important to research carefully before choosing an elder law attorney.  With care, you will be able to find a litigation attorney who is able to handle your elder law case.

It’s important to make sure that the attorney is legally a litigation lawyer.  In order for an attorney to legally practice, he or she must practice the Bar exam in the state in which they want to practice.  If an attorney moves out of state, they must take another Bar exam to be legally able to practice law in an that state.  It’s important to make sure that your attorney has the legally required license needed to practice law.  Your attorney will only be able to represent you if they have the required state license.

The attorney that you choose should also be very familiar with the elder law field.  Many attorneys practice various forms of law and instead aren’t specialized in just one.  You probably want to choose an attorney who specializes in elder law, so that you know it’s their main focus.  It may be difficult to determine if an attorney is experienced enough to handle your case.

It’s a good idea to ask your attorney a lot of questions.  You will want to ask specific questions about their practice as well as their experience in the elder law field.  You should make sure that the attorney keeps up to date on elder law issues and laws.

Elder LawYou way want to use the internet as a way to learn more about the attorney of your choosing.  If you notice that the attorney has written a lot of pieces about elder law related topics or if he or she is in the news for doing great things in the elder law community, this is a great sign.  If you are unable to find any sort of information on the attorney, this may mean that he or she really is not very experienced.  This can be a bad sign.

You should also feel comfortable with the attorney that you choose.  Not only will you be talking about private matters, but you will need to build a trusting relationship with your attorney.   Make sure that you’re able to get along with your attorney as well as feel comfortable talking about your case.  You may find that an attorney has a conflicting personality.  If this is the case, he or she many not be a great fit for you.  Know that there are many other attorneys that you can talk to get your needs met.

Take caution when choosing an elder law attorney. This will allow you to choose a professional and reliable attorney who can help make a difference in your case.  By not choosing a good attorney, you may face negative results.