Denial is a powerful self-preservation tool – it helps to keep us hopeful and moving forward in bad situations. But denial of a parent’s or client’s lack of capacity with respect to credit cards and money is the perfect backdrop for financial fraud. Lack of financial capacity requires some sort of action to keep people safe.
As providers of in home care, we see it all the time, a lady with “senior moments” in her 80’s who is not “diagnosed” with dementia – so her family looks the other way while she pays bills late, uses her credit card to purchase home shopping network items daily or gives large financial gifts to relatives.
I’ve had a client, a wonderful retired Judge who was 93, insist he hadn’t paid SDG&E when in fact; he’d paid the same power bill numerous times. His daughter didn’t want to interfere with his “independence”.
We recommend re-loadable debit cards to all of our home care clients, the kind that give daily or weekly spending alerts that can be monitored by a trusted designee. Our agency offers a card to our clients, and for non-clients, I recommend the Truelink Card.
I’m always surprised that those who need it most turn it down because “Dad said no.”
In one case, Dad was a retired physician not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s because his fellow physicians simply didn’t want to label him with the disease. He carried multiple credit cards, one with a $60,000 limit. He gave gifts as well.
It’s very hard for a family member, fiduciary or power of attorney to insist that an elderly person is not making good enough decisions to stay in control of their finances.
But taking control away from someone who can’t monitor money, bills, bank and credit accounts is a crucial step towards protecting those we love and those we are caring for.
If taking over entirely is out of the question – consider negotiating with the elderly person to have a second set of eyes on accounts – someone responsible to assist with review of charge card bills, etc.
Have a no gift rule unless certain conditions met, including having all gifts in writing signed by the giver, receiver and a witness or responsible party. We have a policy that any gift over $25 must be approved in advance by the agency – to protect our clients, our caregivers and our reputation.
If the elderly person uses credit cards, limit the number of credit cards in the house, there is typically no reason that someone elderly needs three or four credit cards. Fewer cards means less to review. Have petty cash in the house, along with a log to track cash expenses. Make sure receipts are kept and reviewed by someone regularly.
Finally, never have a caregiver, housekeeper or neighbor help with paying the bills or help with banking. Hire a bookkeeper or select a fiduciary for these tasks or designate a responsible family member. If most crimes are those of opportunity, limiting that opportunity will save heartache down the road.
If you’d like more information about in home care, please give us a call or visit our website by clicking here.
You can read more about financial issues affecting the elderly and those with special needs by clicking here.
At Home Nursing Care is licensed and accredited to provide in home care including care giving services and nursing. To learn more about our Founder Lauren Reynolds and what inspired her to open the agency, watch this video.