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How to Fight Elder Fraud

cost-of-fraud

Every year, at least $36 Billion is reportedly taken from older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging. The largest segment is “Exploitation” — when businesses, individuals, or charities use pressure tactics or misleading language to lead seniors into financial mistakes. My parents were prayed upon, and the source of the fraud was surprising.

When my parents still lived in their home, they signed two agreements for the same work — one was for a few hundred, and the second was for $5,200. Thankfully, my mom sensed something was wrong and called my sister. I lived near mom and dad so could stop by and found the two contracts for the same work — one that was horrifically over-priced. We were able to cancel the outrageous contract, but I should have also called the police, Adult Protective Services, and the Better Business Bureau. We were so stunned at the time that 1) they could victims of horrible people; 2) thankful we caught it in time that I never circled back to work with the systems in place that could help protect others from this same crime.

The Washington Post carried a story today that detailed the depth of the crimes against three local seniors. They were robbed of more than $100,000 by what our local police call “woodchucks”.  They start by offering to trim trees, and if they do return after you have given them a deposit, they usually find a host of other issues to repair. Most of the work is either not needed (roof tile or chimney repair that you can’t see), is done poorly, or never completed.

Holding that checkbook is for many, the last item in helping them feel control over their world. It was at least another year before my mom would let me help her with the checkbook and bill payments. When I started to notice that my parents were writing weekly checks to a variety of charities I had never heard of, my antennae went up. If you read the letters, they are written to make the recipient believe they have already promised a donation.It can be hard to get a handle on this since it feels good to give. However, sometimes it can get out of control.

As a daily money manager, I helped one client who was giving over $2,000 a month to a host of charities she doesn’t even believe in because of the letters and calls coming into her home. He son asked her to keep the donations to under $30, which she did. However, she was writing checks and giving her credit card out nearly 100 times every month.

When we started working on bill pay together, I was able to show her how much money she was giving away and it surprised her. When we started to go through the mail and discussed the charities, she realized she didn’t know what they did or even believe in the mission. After taking these steps, it was easy for her to realize that she needed to reconsider her giving and we came up with a good solution for her.

If you are worried about this with your loved one, start slow. Work in tandem to get a handle on the charitable giving — tax season is a great time to do this. Create a list of the key charities of interest and suggest that you review all of the others at the end of the year.

Money is always a difficult topic in families. If you are approaching your role as care partner, you may find it easier to tackle these issues if you do them together. If you don’t live near your loved one, and you think they need some help, I suggest you consider finding a local daily money manager to help you navigate the road ahead. Recommended. 

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Is it Time to Stop Driving?

CAR KEYSI shared the story of how my family dealt with driving. It was difficult and horrible because my parents didn’t know they had lost their licenses and kept driving. Our biggest fear was that they would have an accident and without a valid license … had no auto insurance. If they were in an accident, I could see them being sued for everything they owned. If you want to revisit that series of post, you can find it here.

What has been interesting to witness is the variety of my clients who have freely (but not happily) given up their car keys. There were little issues, like getting lost or having a minor fender-bender, that usually preceded the choice.

For my clients that have given up keys, the ease at which we have been able to get them to the events they want to attend made all the difference in the world. We could shown them that not driving was not going to slow them down.

Friends have mostly filled in to help get them to church, to their member groups, and even to their volunteer obligations. It is actually making their interactions with others richer. In my community, we have a local non-profit that sets up volunteer rides. You may have a similar group in your community. In the McLean area, we have a Shepherd’s Center of McLean/Arlington/Falls Church. In Reston, they have RC Rides through the Reston Community Center, and several of the villages in our area provide rides to their members. To see if you have one in your area, you may want to reach out to the Agency for Aging in your county.

For one client , we incorporated personal care assistants (through an agency that we pay) that can offer on-demand rides when needed. For a few dollars more than a cab ride, he has someone who can comes once a week to help get the grocery list together, get the shopping done and put-away. The other client purchased discounted taxi vouchers so she can get to the grocery store.

I am happy that we can make the loss of the keys not limit my clients ability to continue doing the things that they love. When you face this issue, are there ways to make the loss of the keys not feel like a loss of freedom, but maybe even a move to promote socialization with friends they enjoy and community activities they love? Recommended.

 

 

 

 

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Five Reasons To Get Financial Support

checkbookI realized how much control of the checkbook meant to my mom. While I was terrified she was going to be taken advantage of … she was totally unconcerned over the idea that she might lose her wallet. The reality was that she didn’t remember ever misplacing her wallet or purse.

What I came to learn was that the biggest threat to her financial security was not what most expect. It was the number of non-profits that wanted to get a few dollars to fund their mission. It felt good to my mother to be able to send off $25 to a charity.

A recent family asked me to step in and help their mom. We were all shocked to find that she was giving away over $2,000 every month in $25 and $30 increments. While mom was resistant to help, she was surprised to learn how much she was giving away every month and had not realized how quickly those small amounts accumulated. She now holds the bills and we work together once a week to pay bills and balance the checkbook.

If you have concerns over these issues, bring in a daily money manager can help. Not only can having a third-party mitigate any sibling/family concerns, but it also offers five other benefits:

  1. You can be the daughter/son. I realized that I was spending hours every week dealing with bills, medical details, and following up on a host of random items that I would have rather not been doing. I would have preferred to be able to just hang out with mom.
  2. You can empower your loved ones longer. Taking out the personal family history can help in finding simple solutions to manageing the money. You can just suggest they try it for a month and see if it helps to have a second set of eyes if you are noticing bills going un-paid or being over-paid. As tax season approaches, it might be a good time to try out some extra help.
  3. You have info you need if a community is considered. If you consider moving a loved one into a life care or retirement community, they will require a summary of personal assets. How quickly would you be able to pull that information together, and might it make mom or dad anxious if you were going through their papers?
  4. Real numbers to compare costs. Most people assume a retirement or assisted living community is instantly more expensive. In several cases, I have found it was less costly than keeping a loved in their home and bringing all of the care and services to them. Find out how and when you might consider a community option.
  5. Fraud and scam avoidance. One of the things a daily money manager will do is reconcile the checking account and monitor the credit card for extraneous charges. For one client, we found that the bank had deducted $1,000 more than the actual checks value. While the adult child was monitoring the account from across the country, they couldn’t know the actual amount of the invoice to know that $1,000 too much was debited from dad’s account.

After serving in this role for mom and dad for five years, I realized that I would exchange some of the money I inherited at mom’s death for free time and mother-daughter time had I known what I now know. Recognized. 

If you want to find a daily money manager in your area, check out American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM).

 

 

 

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My Journey As a Caregiver … in 3 Parts

KaywParents2013I was asked to share my caregiving journey on Healthline. It turned into a three-part series, and might have some information that you find beneficial.

1) The Fight to Become My Parents’ Caregiver

2) What It Means to Be a Caregiver

3) The Painful Choices End-of-Life Brings for the Caregiver

I’m happy to be on the other side of the journey, and can now treasure all the skills I learned, and the moments I shared with mom and dad. Traveled.

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Grief is a Sneaky Beast

lefsemakingThis Christmas marked the one year anniversary of Mom’s death. My first thought was to take a trip. I didn’t want to be at home and relive last Christmas. I had forgotten we were hosting my in-laws, so my urge to run away from Christmas at home was thwarted. However, I was happy to be able to enjoy the holiday with family around.

I recognize now how my instinct to run from problems has changed over the past decade. I couldn’t run away from the call to step in and help my parents–but I did have minor tussles with myself when things got really tough. Caregiving changed me in many ways and I have to admit this one was a change for the better.

I learned to live in the moment and focus on what is in front of me. My mother-in-law used this Christmas to pass the baton on my husband’s family tradition of making lefse for the Swedish dinner. It’s a three day process. The first day you make the dough, the second day you make the lefse … and the final day is all about eating. It was a wonderful new tradition to absorb into our holiday.

On Christmas Day, I knew I had 5 sets of eyes on me. My husband reassured everyone that I would not want to talk about mom or the event. We actually had a lovely Christmas and I only reflected fondly on my memories of both my parents who weren’t with me. I was happy to have moved through the holiday surrounded by family and know every year will get a little easier.

I was surprised to find myself in tears two days after Christmas when I walked into a Valentine display. I will never see a box of Russell Stover’s and not think of my mom. I’m still shocked at how quickly the sadness descends to remind me of my loss. However, I’m now more mindful to quickly fill that void with all blessings that currently surround me. Enriched. 

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The Kindness of Strangers

heiberg-ii_usma_3dec16The small acts of so many made my job as a caregiver so much easier. Humanity includes many wonderful components we sometimes forget.

I just received a picture of the wreath that was laid in honor of my grandfather at West Point Cemetery. Not only do volunteers gently deposit it, they also take the time to take a picture and have it sent back to me so I can share it with the family.

Best wishes to all of us who are missing a loved on on this holiday.

I am grateful to all of those who helped me on my care-giving journey. Some of you stepped in to help when I needed to step back, or encouraged me on when I wasn’t sure I was able to continue. Many thanks. Remembered. 

 

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3, 2, 1, … Enjoy Your Loved Ones When You Can

momxmas2014CHRISTMAS 2013: Just three years ago, mom was opening up a basket of breakfast treats. I remember feeling a bit lost about how to manage through the holidays. It was only a few months after Dad died. With no short-term memory, Mom, with Vascular Dementia, was having a hard time remembering, absorbing, and even grieving her partner of 60+ years. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas and worked to find a cute little Christmas tree (shown behind her) in hopes she wouldn’t feel so alone in this world.

I remember at this time working with the staff in her Assisted Living community to help her manage. She was calling me repeatedly asking about Dad. She was also getting into physical disagreements with other residents and the community was having a hard time helping mom through this period. This was about the time I started to recognize that the community she was in really wasn’t the right fit for her needs. Mom needed a memory care community — not Assisted Living which addresses physical healthcare needs. She was always on the go and craved activities with meaning and purpose.

Thankfully, my sister came and spent several days with her and I had a nice reprieve from caregiving over the holidays.

kayandkittyxmas2014Christmas 2014:  I had found mom a new community, but one week before the move date, she had a terrible reaction to a pain medication that resulted in her being bed-bound for nearly a month. After being in bed for so long, she was weak and didn’t trust her own two feet. It was several months before mom was back on her feet and moving around. On this Christmas she was still using a wheelchair to get around.

I went to visit her on Christmas Day and after opening up presents and eating a little, she asks to lie back down in bed. I arrived with my ugly Christmas sweater in hopes of bringing some silly humor to the holiday. She was in good spirits and we had a nice afternoon together. Before I left, she thanked me for “making her feel human again.”

Christmas 2015: Ten days before Christmas I was in the Emergency Room with mom who was diagnosed with a broken hip. She had a mini-stroke somewhere in the midst of all the commotion. We learn she is too weak for surgery. Mom no longer recognizes me and is moved into the care of hospice. I visit mom daily and spent most days crying as she sleeps. On Christmas Day, her breathing is a little more jagged, and by early evening I get the call that mom died. As bitter as that moment felt, I also recognize that we just received a blessing. Mom no longer has to live with dementia and can now rest with Dad.

As I approach my first Christmas without having to balance life as a caregiver, or worry about how mom will spend her holiday, I recognize how quickly the journey can end. This year I will focus on the wonderful holidays I did get to spend with my parents. Reflected.

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