Downs Law Firm, P.C.

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Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

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Advice for adult children, so their parents in nursing homes and assisted living are safe from scammers.

How can a family member intervene to prevent Elder financial abuse?

Finding out a loved one has been taken advantage of is always upsetting. It’s even worse when a parent is in a long-term care facility, and adult children aren’t there to prevent or stop it. This vulnerability is especially true during the pandemic when restrictions meant to keep residents safe from COVID make them more vulnerable to scammers.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released a guide to preventing this same problem, as reported in the article “Preventing Elder Financial Abuse When Your Parent Is In Long-Term Care” from the next avenue.

The goal is to help professionals who work with the facilities recognize red flags, develop policies and protocols and use technology to prevent residents from becoming victims. There’s also a lot of good information in the guide for residents’ children.

One reason elder financial abuse occurs so quickly in long-term care facilities is that the members of care teams can quickly get access to financial records as well as medical records. Putting protections in place before financial abuse happens is the best strategy.

There are several layers of protection to consider: First, a family member can be assigned and empowered to monitor banking and credit card accounts regularly. Second, fraud alerts should be activated and directed to the individual and a designated, trusted contact. Third, an outside professional may be hired to watch over the person’s finances.

Experts recommend listening to their loved ones during visits, online or in person. When a senior says money or personal items are missing, don’t assume these are part of cognitive issues. Take steps to investigate and document findings.

If an aging parent mentions a strange phone call or an unusual request by a staff member, immediately check their accounts, even if they insist they shared no personal information. Scammers are very good at what they do and can easily tell a victim nothing wrong occurred. Even if something didn’t happen this time, a single phone call or conversation might be a warning of the parent being on someone’s radar as a possible victim.

To prevent elder financial abuse pay attention if small amounts of cash are missing from accounts. Scammers typically begin small, testing the waters to see if the person, their family, or the financial institution is paying attention. Banks cannot discuss your parent’s finances with their investment advisor due to privacy rules, so the designated family member needs to be in touch with any institutions handling their money.

If no family member has been appointed Power of Attorney over financial accounts, this is a must-do, as long as the parent has the legal capacity to grant this power. The POA gives the person the legal ability to manage financial accounts. Such a document should have a chain of command so that there are successive named people to help in case the first person dies. Also, the terms of a power of attorney are critical, and an estate planning attorney should be involved in the drafting.

If the person is incapacitated and has no POA, it may be necessary for the child to be named guardian. An estate planning attorney will discuss the situation and recommend the best way forward for the individual and their family.

Reference: next avenue (Dec. 17, 2021) “Preventing Elder Financial Abuse When Your Parent Is In Long-Term Care”