After his wife of 57 years died, Mr. A was grief-stricken. His daughter and son asked if he would move in with one of them, but he couldn’t bear the thought of parting with the house. He wanted them to inherit the family home. Besides, with his mild memory problem, he would feel like a burden, and a little embarrassed if they noticed it. If he needed in-home care, which might be soon, he had enough money to pay for it.
That was two years ago.
Now, Mr. A’s kids seem shocked that he has sold the home and moved in with the woman he wants to marry. Carmen, whom he met online, has done more over the past two years than the kids ever have. When they don’t dine out, she makes all the meals, cleans, dotes on him, helps him get dressed, and takes him to doctors’ appointments. She even helps pay bills and balances the checkbook – another chore he hated that his wife always took care of. Recently she has taken an interest in stocks and bonds, so he showed her how to log in and trade in his investment account. As his health is declining, Mr. A feels the need to take care of Carmen even more, and plans to see his attorney to change his will.
Whether or not Carmen is a predator, Mr. A has the I.D.E.A.L. traits to attract an elder abuser:
I – Isolation – He lives alone;
D – Dependency – He needs help for his activities of daily living;
E – Emotional manipulation – Due to his cognitive impairment, he is vulnerable to someone who knows how to bring out his feelings;
A – Acquiescence – He is not likely to push back or question, in order to avoid embarrassment;
L – Loss – He is in a state of grief.
Making decisions about living environment, neighborhood, money, and family as we age isn’t easy – but avoiding the I.D.E.A.L. traits may help prevent vulnerability to predators.
More and more states, especially Florida, have enacted statutes to protect elders and prosecute those who take advantage of them. One online resource is the National Center on Elder Abuse – https://ncea.acl.gov.
Financial planners are often in a unique position to recognize signs of a client’s vulnerability or possible abuse. Open communication between family members and the financial professional about possible signs of decline, and what to do about it, can help protect those you love. If you know someone who you think is being abused or taken advantage of, and you are unable to speak with their family, you can (usually anonymously) notify your local law enforcement agency or Department of Aging Services.
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