We have all heard the stories of elderly people being helped by someone who steals from them or abuses them. Sometimes we do not find out this information until the person passes away or it is too late. For example, If your relative sent thousands of dollars in Visa gift cards to bail out their grandson who is in jail in Mexico when in reality he never left the state he lives in. After having multiple caregivers before your relative passes away, you realize your great-grandmother’s jewelry is missing.
How do you find people you can trust and protect your elderly relative from people you don’t even know? The answer is prevention and vigilance.
Steps to Ensure Reliable Caregivers & Providers
Ensure anyone who has contact with your relative has been background checked. If they are not with an agency who automatically checks people, do it yourself. Someone trustworthy will never be insulted. Find out about this person or business from someone you trust. Some independent providers of home care are fired for stealing or abusing residents at a nursing home only to offer their services privately.
If it seems too good to be true it probably isn’t. Someone offering services well below market rate is either ignorant or hiding something. Check these people carefully. Do not only accept calls from people they say are clients, you could be calling their cousin. Do internet searches and even ask on social media if anyone has heard of them.
When you suspect that a provider is taking advantage of your elderly relative, install cameras. The results will either prove your suspicions or soothe your mind. Lack of privacy is secondary to safety in this case.
If you are worried about financial safety, ask to become the older adult’s power of attorney or, in extreme cases, their guardian. You will have more control over their finances. However, scams may happen before you can prevent them. Talk to your elderly relative about how scams work. In the case of a grandson in jail, ask the caller for the name of their pet when they were young. Especially effective is to ask about the name of their cat when they never had a cat.
Why do scammers take advantage of the elderly? Because they can. Older adults are a very vulnerable population due to dementia and because they grew up in a different era and don’t understand the sophisticated scams that are out there now. It is up to us to make sure our relatives are safe.