While it is important to make sure our parents are well-taken care of and healthy as they age, it is just as important to make sure that their financial affairs are in order. This also includes being on the lookout for and preventing any potential financial exploitation.
When dealing with aging parents, it's important to be sensitive to the signs of any financial elder abuse, as it can present in a variety of different ways. Often it is those closest to your parents, such as caregivers and other family members, that are perpetrating these crimes. They utilize their close connection to the elderly victim to exploit trust and manipulate finances. There are also strangers and scammers, whether they are asking for money for a non-existent charity or to pay off a debt that you allegedly owe, that you must be aware of.
As with most issues in the field of elder law, one of the most effective steps in preventing elder abuse, be it physically or financially, is to have frank discussions with your parents in advance. That means having those discussions well before they get to the point that they need help. While you may receive some resistance from them, remember that there may come a time when it will become necessary to make decisions on their behalf. The sooner you and your parents get comfortable discussing their finances openly, the better prepared they will be and you will be, to deal with any potential financial exploitation. If your elderly parents are aware of scams and have a well-thought out plan for dealing with suspicious activities related to their finances, it will go a long way to protecting them from being victimized.
What are the signs?
If a parent or other family member has been scammed, they may be reluctant to talk about it. Signs can include:
- Bank statements that stop coming home
- New purchases that are made with little to no explanation
- Spending habits that suddenly change
- Someone, whether a stranger or a person known to your parents, unexpectedly starts spending more time with your elderly parent(s) or attempts to isolate them
Should I review my parent's bank statements?
Preventing elder abuse begins and ends with communication. It's important that if you can and if your parents are willing to allow you to, talk about and review their bank accounts. Make sure that their bills are being paid. Streamlining their various accounts is critical so that you have all the information in one place, lessening the chances of a financial elder abuse crisis.
In the following short video, Foster Swift elder law and estate planning attorney Nic Camargo discusses potential signs of financial elder abuse that you should look for, along with ways to prevent potential future abuse. Click here to watch the video.