The indignity of aging: Predatory Home Service Providers

Every week I visit a client and we do a quick review of his two checking accounts. I was alarmed to find 2 payments charged to his debit card for more than $2,000 by a local plumbing company.

This client is nice and trusting and unfortunately, a local plumbing company took advantage and charged him more than $7,000 to plunge the toilet and change the hot and cold valves on three bathroom sinks. I was alarmed at $2k and then found a 3rd charge of $5,000 on his credit card.

The three invoices were all written in one day. Since we couldn’t even read the handwriting on the invoices, we called the company to ask about the services performed. They promised to send before and after photo’s of the work justifying the services performed, but a call by his daughter asking for the detailed explanation of work has never been provided.

I called in a second plumber to do an assessment of the work performed who said that it should have cost no more than $1,500.

Sadly, I have learned that in Virginia, there are no measures in place to protect consumers from predatory pricing. Maryland on the other hand has a process to protect consumer from predatory pricing practices.

For now, I’m in the midst of a claim with Better Business Bureau who gave this firm an A+ rating. Checks on Yelp and Google all list other complaints about predatory pricing — especially targeted it seems to older adults. The next step will be a call to County Attorney since this is a form of Elder Abuse.

In the meantime, we are working on other ways to protect him from predatory home service providers, but also keep him engaged and involved.  We started by posting “recommended providers” on his refrigerator.

It’s discouraging to learn that some businesses are taking advantage and I am dedicating my personal time to help fight every one I come across. Disgusted. 


The indignity of aging: Caregiver Exploitation

stealmemeIn the past few weeks, I’ve been involved with three older adults who have been the victim of fraud and exploitation and it’s both fueling my commitment to serving older adults and whittling away my belief in humanity.

It’s been distressing and discouraging on many levels.

Every year, the National Council on Aging predicts that $17 Billion is taken by businesses, individuals, and charities that use pressure tactics or misleading language to lead seniors into financial mistakes.

CAREGIVER EXPLOITATION: The first older adult lives in an assisted living community. She is unable to manage her affairs now and I pay the bills on her behalf. She’s been declining and a new caregiver coached her through writing a check for $100.  When I discovered it, I immediately reported it to the community and it resulted in the loss of her job.

I’ve been working with this client for more than two years and know that it would have taken at least ten minutes for her to write that check. She would have been unable to complete it without step-by-step coaching. We reported it to the police and hope they will be able to charge her for this crime. What I learned during this process is that she has been working in senior-living communities for almost a decade. YIKES!

Did she start small to see if anyone noticed the check?  Had we not found it, would she have returned for more money every week?

I’m not sure we will ever truly know.  What I do know is that she most likely made my client very uncomfortable and that makes me angry and sad.

I decided that what I could do was to let the owners of the local home care agencies know her name and what she did. Gotta admit that I made A LOT of phone calls. However, I hope that it can help avoid this happening to someone else. None of these agencies would want her on their payroll. I’m sorry that it’s not easier to prosecute those that pray on older adults.

This is just a reminder that being watchful and protective can make a huge difference for those you love. Fueled. 


I’m ready to die

shouldistayMy client just shared this with me today. She’s 92, and the last few months have been difficult. She’s been having hallucinations, phantom pains, and doesn’t quite remember much about her past. While it’s sudden delivery surprises me, I also recognize that I would love for us all to be able to reach this point and gracefully exit.

She is always a delight to visit. She thanks me for helping and she follows along as I lead small talk about her son, her past, and the activities in her community I know she enjoys. So this statement, so definitive and bold, startled me.

She has enjoyed a wonderful life. May we all be able to choose our exit. I know my mom desperately wanted to avoid ever having her kids help care for her. I tell myself I hope I will be able to know when I’m taking more than I’m giving and gracefully end my journey on planet Earth … but I can’t imagine how to ever make that happen. Wished. 


Leave a comment

Mom is back in the hospital

cargiverburnoutWhen the primary caregiver fails, it’s really hard to quickly pick up the pieces. In this case, Mom has been caring for Dad with Alzheimer’s, but now Mom has health issues that landed her in the hospital.

If the caregiver ends up in the hospital, the mad scramble from Plan B begins.  Most families are totally unprepared and it surprises me how often this happens given all the data available to educate us on how important it is to have a plan in place.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance nearly three quarters (72%) of caregivers reported that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should, and more than half (55%) had missed doctors appointments.

More alarming is that elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.

If you have a parent who is filling this role, it’s time to sit down and have a real conversation about how to create a Plan B should something happen to them. Is there some way to help them now before a crisis? What can you do now to be prepared to easily step in if they are unable to fill the day-to-day role of caregiver?

Maybe over dinner or a cup of tea, could you ask:

  • Tell me about your average day. How often and how are you helping mom/dad?
  • If you fell and ended up in the hospital, what could I do to help mom/dad?
  • Have you found any local support groups?

Spousal support groups can really help since many will discuss how to set up Plan B as well as how to minimize the stress of caregiving. In fact, I heard these stats from a support group leader.

The best way to help is to start from a place to help the caregiver be successful. Most of the pushback I see is when the family wants to take over. Start by asking for a job you could do to help them both.

Trying to put plans into place from the hospital or from another state just creates more stress for everyone. I hope you will have an opportunity to discuss this before you may ever need to use what you learn.

If you need to get some immediate help to navigate medical issues, I hope you will look into finding a local Aging Life Care Manager. You can learn more or search for one in your area at www.aginglifecare.org.

If you want a guide to start having a conversation around what you need to step in and help, you can use this list of key documents and information you would need to help manage the finances and maintain the household.

The reality is we should all have a Plan B in place. I hope this guide will help get started. Shared.

Leave a comment

A Funny Video on How to Start the Conversation about End of Life Wishes

We avoid this conversation, but I know the guilt caregivers feel when they aren’t sure if they are doing the right thing for their loved ones. It’s time for us to start having the discussion about end of life wishes since 9 out of 10 American’s will need someone to speak on our behalf before the end of our life according to a joint study done by the National Institutes of Health and Veteran’s Affairs.

Watch this funny video from The Conversation Project to get started. 

This Thanksgiving or at your next family gathering, I hope you will carve out some time to start the conversation with your loved ones on how you plan to live the rest of your life. The kits listed below offer some inclusive ways to begin this discussion with your loved ones.

I am lucky my parents shared their thoughts with me. It made a difficult journey a little easier. However, I had many choices to make that were gut-wrenching that we never covered, but the fact that my parent’s made it clear that they wanted quality of life over quantity of life made those difficult decisions easier for me and my siblings.

They have both a general conversation kit, and also one tailored for individuals with Dementia 

I hope you can find a way to bring these resources to your own family. Hoped. 




1 Comment

When a Credit Freeze Makes Sense

creditfreezeThe credit bureaus just removed all fees from the credit freeze process. To protect myself, I implemented a credit freeze about a year ago. I can unlock it when I need to make a purchase (and now there is no fee to do this), and I am not at a stage in my life where I need to open new credit accounts.

For those of you caring for someone with dementia, this could add a layer of protection against any concerns of fraud.  Before you put a credit freeze on your account, set up your online account with Social Security. Once you implement a credit freeze, you won’t be able to do this online with social security — because it basically freezes the ability to use your social security number. At least that is how they explained it to me because I froze my credit, THEN tried to set up  my online access. I can still do it but have to come into the local social security office. Mea Culpa!

Freezing your credit is free. However, as you go through the process they will try to sell you additional services and notifications. I’m a little appalled that they expect me to pay for a service to notify me when my credit card number is found on the “dark web” since I believe this should be part of the service my credit card company manages to protect me as a card holder.

In general, if you are looking at your bank and credit statements and checking the mail, you shouldn’t need additional services. However, if you have a loved one with dementia who is still managing on their own, putting this in place might be a second line of defense against fraud or scams.

A credit freeze doesn’t protect against fraudulent charges against an existing account (you still have monitor bills and statements) nor ensure that someone doesn’t try to file a fraudulent tax return.  But it does offer a layer of protection against accessing your credit.

If you decide to freeze credit, you will need to unlock it should they later consider moving into a care community.

To start the freeze process, you will need to contact the big three bureaus:

Equifax: Visit this site to start the process: https://my.equifax.com/consumer-registration/UCSC/#/personal-info

Securian: To request your free security freeze, visit Experian’s Freeze Center or call 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742) and provide the required information.

Transunion: Visit this site to start the process: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

I think anything you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is a advisable.  However, we all have different levels of comfort, and you need to do what is right for you and your loved ones. Shared. 


Driving, Dementia, and the Right to Drive

dementiasherpaAs the adult child who watched the dings accumulate on my parent’s car, and then as they continued to drive after their licenses were revoked, this topic still makes my tummy and heart ache.

However, as a Daily Money Manager, I’m now having these discussions with my clients who have hired me to help with the daily finances and bill pay usually because of health issues, and also hearing them lament over their children’s suggestion they give up the car keys.

This week, a client diagnosed with Parkinson’s and that by self-admission is having issues finding words and managing bills is very angry at her children who are suggesting she stop driving. When I asked her what her neurologist said when she asked about driving and safety, she said the rules tell him he has to write a note to rescind her license only if she is passing out. God Bless America. We have made driving a right you receive, not a right you earn and must continually qualify for.

I shared with my client that her adult children are worried for her safety, while she is fighting for her independence. I gave her some examples about how driving can be challenging because she will have to make split second decisions when she’s behind the wheel of her car.

As we discussed the topic a little deeper, she said she was going to voluntarily give up the car keys, but is now so mad that her kids are demanding she give them up, she is fighting to keep driving. My bent toward logic made me talk that through with her a little, but right now, she’s wants understanding and is devastated at the losses she is facing.

I left hoping I could wave a wand and make this easier for everyone. I can now clearly see how this topic is so difficult for every family.

I recently was introduced to Christy Turner, The Dementia Sherpa. She offers a host of great suggestions on how to better  communicate with your loved ones diagnosed with dementia, including some tips on how and when to navigate the issue with driving. Dementia just stinks. Recommended. 

%d bloggers like this: