With the onset of illness or accident it is inevitable that most of us will become dependent at some point on others for our survival. Scary as it is we look faithfully to our children and relatives or other trusted individuals to hold a power of attorney (POA) when we are no longer capable of handling our affairs. But it gets scarier. Along with the escalating number of boomers, victimisation will increase. Most anything from, physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse originates from family members. "While society focuses on child abuse, it falls far behind when it comes to responding to elder abuse." (Gleckman). Sadly, up to 150,000 POA documents are too often granted to distrustful, negligent and fraudulent attorneys often resulting in messy disputes with family and relatives. In the process grantors have been defrauded and left penniless.
Mary Martin Sharma who heads a seniors advocacy group notes a false sense of entitlement by many family members. For example, a typical scenario occurs when adult children move into their ailing ageing parent's house. As time goes by the parent needs more and more care so the adult child feels that the mother or father can't manage, and he or she ends up in a nursing home. In the meantime, the adult child has permanently moved into the parent's house.
Another example is an adult child who used a power of attorney given to him by his parent to sell his mother's house and put the money towards a better house for himself. These examples may be indicative of a more subtle devaluing that happens in some families. In a conversation, frail members are sometimes addressed using third person tense which might exclude their participation. Even in these dismal emotional climates, a senior may not have any awareness that his children are victimising him. If there is an awareness that something's just not right, he or she could be reluctant to report for fear of embarrassment, shame or even worse that the children could get into trouble. If it is a nursing home, there could be a fear of reprisal from supervising home staff.
Service scams such as the bogus charities, get rich quick schemes, miracle drug and diet cures often take advantage of our seniors' generosity and kindness. They also may appeal to someone looking for a quick, easy solution for discomfort or loneliness. If you're a vulnerable older adult living at home and feel hesitant to ask questions, you could be victimised by scammers. They may come to your door or contact you via telephone or your computer to trap you. I've often entertained numerous scams such as my furnace, my rug, an internet or phone deal, a computer virus, a Nigerian money transfer, a free Caribbean trip, my driveway or roof, or a prize, etc. Now I'm waiting for the one about my grandson who calls me from jail and needs money to get out and pay the fine. I hesitate to converse with these people who approach me with their fake charities, or more often with their personal development programs that many people believe will "fix" something that's wrong with them. Nobody needs fixing. Elder abuse does scare me. While vulnerable, exploited children stand out in the cold selling two dollar chocolate bars, many frail and mostly invisible elderly shut-ins become quiet victims of abuse.
I've gathered a few simple safety tips to increase awareness of potential fraud.
- Stay active, maintain contact and don't become isolated
- Use automatic deposit for your cheques and pay your bills automatically too
- Get legal advice for POA arrangements
- Grant POA to only those you trust
- Attend seminars and educate yourself and share concerns with your friends and professional who care for you.
- Do not disclose any credit card, bank or personal information to strangers or persons you do not know or trust.
If you have been defrauded or abused, you may call your local police department. Report it, and if there is a worry of reprisal it will be addressed, so no harm will come to you for exercising your rights.©
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net