Inability to handle day-to-day financial details
Signs: Unopened bills, mortgage/credit card statements, bank/insurance or other legal/financial documents; confusion over account balances or cash on hand in home.
Dangers: Collection agencies may call; creditors may sue; health or auto insurance coverage might lapse; they could lose their home due to nonpayment of taxes or mortgage payments; income tax may go into arrears with severe interest penalties. The increased anxiety caused by any of these situations may exacerbate existing illnesses.
Signs: Unusual amounts of junk mail for sweepstakes or envelopes noting "free" or "you may already be a winner"; uncharacteristic purchases of clothing, household items, automobiles, vacations or subscriptions; recurring deliveries of books, cookware, jewelry, household accessories or other items.
Dangers: Multiple investments with telemarketers, sweepstakes or other schemes that target the elderly with repeated calls describing new offers, stopping only when your parent's assets have been depleted. Embarrassment may prevent your parent from disclosing losses.
Signs: New friend, family member or caregiver (exploiter/abuser) isolates your parent from friends/family; parent inexplicably names exploiter/abuser in powers of attorney, wills, deeds, insurance policies or other documents; or suddenly changes doctor, attorney or accountant. Checks/ATM withdrawals increase, usually in even amounts: $25, $50, $100, $500. Exploiter/abuser speaks for parent even when parent is in the room; exhibits interest in parent's finances; remains in room to prevent you from talking with your parent alone.
Dangers: Exploiters succeed by creating false beliefs, i.e., your parent cannot survive without them. They often withhold food or medication or threaten to leave your parent alone with no means of help. They stay until they no longer have access to your parent's funds. If you suspect problems, consult an elder law attorney and geriatric care manager.
Judie Rappaport, CSA, is a partner at Preferred Client Services and the author of "Eldercare 911." Questions to: Ask Judie, P.O. Box 2554, Jupiter, FL 33468-2554, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.