Elder financial abuse is always upsetting, but it’s even worse when a parent is in a long-term care facility and adult children aren’t there to prevent it or stop it. This 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 prevent this very same problem, as reported in the article “Preventing Elder Financial Abuse When Your Parent Is In Long-Term Care” from next avenue.
The goal is to help professionals who work with the facilities to 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 the children of residents.
One reason elder financial abuse occurs so easily in long-term care facilities is because members of care teams can easily get access to financial records as well as medical records. Putting protections in place before financial abuse happens is the best strategy.
Banking and credit card accounts should be monitored regularly, and fraud alerts should be set up to be sent to the individual and a designated, trusted contact. An outside professional may also 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 complains about money or personal belongings going 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 no personal information was shared. Scammers are very good at what they do and can easily convince a victim nothing wrong has occurred. Even if something didn’t occur this time, a single phone call or conversation may be a warning of the parent being on someone’s radar as a possible victim.
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 given Power of Attorney over financial accounts, this is a must-do, as long as the parent has legal capacity to grant this power. The POA gives the person the legal ability to manage financial accounts. If the person is incapacitated, it may be necessary for the child to be named guardian. An estate planning attorney will be able to 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”