Elder abuse is a serious problem in Arizona, affecting more than 14,000 elders every year. The elderly are at risk for many different kinds of abuse, but it is estimated that over 33% of all elder abuse cases involve financial abuse or financial exploitation.
Obviously, families have many concerns when they hire a caregiver to help vulnerable elders in their home. One of the biggest concerns is that the senior will be taken advantage of, or abused in some way. Many elders have both the desire and the financial means to remain living in their homes for as long as physically possible, which gives more opportunity for financial abuse by a devious caregiver.
One of the primary reasons that seniors and their families hire caregivers through an agency is to avoid hiring a caregiver with a criminal record and to provide the supervision and necessary oversight in order to keep their loved one safe. At Nightingale Homecare, each of our caregivers not only undergoes an extensive background check, but is screened for, and trained on understanding professional boundaries.
Whether you happen to hire a caregiver privately, or through an agency, there are things to be alert for in order to keep your elder loved one safe from financial exploitation.
Who Is at Risk?
Financial exploitation occurs when a person takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for his or her own personal benefit. This can occur with or without the knowledge of the vulnerable adult, depriving the person of his or her own financial resources.
Older adults may be vulnerable to financial exploitation for a number of reasons, including:
- Having financial assets available and presumed unguarded by a malicious caregiver.
- The elder individual’s often trusting nature, particularly with a caregiver.
- Forgetfulness or cognitive impairment that keeps the senior from being aware that he or she is being financially abused.
- Unhealthy dependence on a caregiver. This can lead to the elder offering things of value to the caregiver in order to win favor and keep the caregiver around.
- Caregivers may be given or can create access to the elders’ assets, documents, or financial information, or be able to exercise significant influence over the elder person.
- Social isolation, which shields the caregiver perpetrator from scrutiny and insulates the elder victim from those who can help.
- Malicious caregivers intimidate and manipulate the elderly and convince them that they “owe” the caregiver money or property.
Signals of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse can occur when a caregiver or other trusted individual steals from a senior. Often, these malicious individuals take advantage of their relationship with the elderly person to gain access to money and valuables. It can start with the caregiver accepting money for a meal, or other small item, then progress to forging signatures on checks or manipulating the elderly person into giving away money, property or other valuables to benefit the fraudulent caregiver at the expense of the senior.
A number of indicators can signal that an elderly person is the victim of financial abuse. Fraudulent caregivers will work hard to create the illusion to the family and the senior of earned trust and competence. Often, financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse begin with boundary violations, so be on the alert for these early signals, and do not ignore them:
- Missing money, medications or property.
- The elder person giving gifts to the caregiver.
- Caregiver accepting donations or payment for different causes, asking the elder to donate to schools, charities, Girl Scout cookies, etc.
- Words or actions to the effect that the caregiver makes the older adult believe that he or she is special or lucky to be chosen by the caregiver to receive care.
- The elder person’s unawareness of, or confusion about, recently completed financial transactions.
- Caregiver taking money for a purchase that doesn’t arrive.
- Unusual purchases for items that the elder has never made in the past.
- More frequent use of credit cards, increased cash and ATM withdrawals, especially when the elder is accompanied by a caregiver.
- Caregiver who claims to be “best friends” with the elder, particularly those who spend a lot of time, or take up residence, with the elder.
- The elder person relies on a caregiver completely, to the exclusion of others.
- Caregiver over-involved in the elder person’s life and lacks professional boundaries.
- A promise of lifelong care by a caregiver may be accompanied by an expectation that the elder person’s funds will be transferred to the caregiver.
- Suspicious or forged signatures on checks, credit cards or other documents.
- The inclusion of additional names on an elder person’s credit card or bank signature card.
- Legal documents or arrangements, such as powers of attorney, by the elder who is confused or who does not understand or remember the transaction.
- Defensiveness or hostility by the caregiver when questioned about financial arrangements with your loved one.
- An unwillingness by the caregiver to leave your loved one alone during appointments, or isolating the senior from family and friends.
Motivations and Characteristics of Caregiver Perpetrators
Certain tell-tale characteristics and motivations have been identified in the caregiver perpetrators who prey financially upon on the elderly. The more frequently identified motivations include substance abuse, mental health issues, gambling, or financial problems. These dysfunctional caregivers often have low self-esteem.
The caregiver perpetrator may be motivated by a sense that he or she should be further rewarded for caring for your loved one, or may conclude that your loved one has more assets than needed and the caregiver has too few, and thus the caregiver is entitled to a share of your loved one’s assets.
Older people, who may no longer place as great a value on their material possessions, may attempt to give gifts as a means of maintaining a power balance in their relationship with the caregiver. At the same time, the caregiver may indicate that such gifts are necessary if your loved one wishes to retain the caregiver’s attention and assistance.
Some devious caregivers will methodically identify their victims and accept a role as caregiver for this purpose. They will then establish power and control over the elder person in their care, and obtain the elder’s assets by using deceit, intimidation, and other forms of psychological abuse. Such individuals may have an antisocial personality disorder and have little regard for the rights of others.
The good news is, partnering with Nightingale Homecare for your senior care needs ensures that your loved one is safe from exploitation. Each member of our caregiving staff is thoroughly screened, background-checked, bonded and insured, as well as trained in all facets of appropriate in-home senior care. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 for the at home care Scottsdale families can trust.