Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Elder Fraud and Elder Abuse, Part One

An excerpt from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving.

On Oct. 27, 2000 the San Jose Mercury News reported on the case of a San Jose mortgage broker charged with embezzling more than $700,000 from his 90-year-old mother. The article indicates that he had taken control of his mother's finances when she became incapable of handling her own affairs and had taken multiple mortgages out on her home and made large withdrawals from her investment accounts for his own benefit. He was eventually forced to sell her home because he could not make the payments.

This is a pretty extreme case but, unfortunately, elder fraud and elder abuse is not uncommon. In fact, the conditions that lead to these abuses are the very substance of what all caregivers have to contend with. What people believe is a reasonable response to a stressful situation can look very different in a court of law. Could you be committing a crime and not even know it?

Elder Fraud

People think: "I'm doing so much for grandma. I'm with her round the clock. I change her diapers. I listen to her complaints all day long. I answer the same questions over and over. Sometimes she doesn't recognize me and screams at me to get out of her house. You don't know what I go through! And meanwhile, I'm not working, I have no income, I can't take care of my own life because I'm taking care of hers. I deserve to be compensated for this! Who's going to take care of me when I'm old? I have to manage grandma's finances because she can't figure it out anymore. When I have her sign checks I arrange to have some of the money go to me. She doesn't know-she doesn't see that well. But it's ok. After all, it's MY money. When she dies, it's going to me anyway - or it ought to be. So what's the big deal?"

Reality: Feelings like those expressed above are perfectly natural -- I hear stories like this every day. However, when a person starts taking compensation from grandma's pocketbook the line has been crossed into elder fraud. No matter how it feels, there is no justification for taking someone else's money for your own purposes in a court of law.

People think: "But if I don't use her money for myself I will have to leave her to get a job and who will take care of her if I'm not there? My mom won't let anyone take care of her but me! And we can't afford to hire someone even if she did."

Reality: This is a hard situation to deal with by yourself. Luckily, you don't have to. Ask for help. If you are dealing with dementia or some other form of brain impairment call Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center. If you are involved in some other form of elder caregiving, call Senior Network Services to find out what services are available. Speak with a family consultant, counselor or social worker who can help you sort out your options and feelings. Even joining a support group can help you figure out ways to get your elder to accept help from social services or other friends and family so you'll be free to create a healthier life for yourself.

1 comment:

rilera said...

Thank you for this post. It's a very important issue especially for caregivers.