Here is a red flag for you to watch out for when it comes to elder abuse… Let’s say that after a painstaking search process, you have finally found a wonderful live-in caregiver to take care of your elderly father. You put the two of them together, holding your breath, hoping everything will work out fine. And sure enough, it does! Every time you call or visit your father, the caregiver could not be nicer to you. You are so happy to see with your own eyes how well your father is doing under this new arrangement. You feel great because your conscience is cleared, and your father is seemingly getting the personal care and attention that he needs.
With your conscience cleared, you start focusing more on yourself and your family – natural, right?. What might have been daily visits to your father might turn into Sunday or weekly visits. If you see that everything is still running smooth, then your Sunday visits might turn into Sunday phone calls, with occasional visits. But then again, life is good, and everyone seems happy in this new arrangement. Your father is being well-cared for, and you have the time you need to focus on your family and their needs.
But then one Sunday, something strange happens. You call your father at your scheduled time, but he does not answer. Instead, for the first time, the caregiver answers and tells you that your father is sleeping, and can’t come to the phone. O.k., that’s normal — right? So, you think nothing of it, after all elderly fathers are entitled to afternoon naps. So, you wait until about 7:00 p.m. to call your father. Again, the caregiver picks up and you are told that your father is bathing, and will return your call after the bath. O.k., that’s fine- after all it is 7:00 p.m., and your father is probably getting ready to settle in for the evening.
But then you wake up Tuesday morning, realizing that your father never called you back. So, again, you call his house. The caregiver picks up again, this time profusely apologizing that your father did not call, swearing that he told her that he had called you back. The caregiver promises that your father will call after his doctor’s appointment that day. But, alas, you receive no phone call. So this time, you say, enough is enough. You get in the car after work and drive over to see your father. However, this time the caregiver tells you that he is sleeping after not feeling well the whole day, and tells you to write him a note which the caregiver promises to deliver to him.
This goes on for some time, until you finally get hold of your father on the phone. What a shock- though!! Instead of hearing your caring father on the other line, you get a grumpy dad who tells you that he is so hurt and angry that you have “dumped” him in his old age, and that the only person who truly cares for him anymore is the caregiver. He tells you not to call or try to see him anymore, that the caregiver will take care of him from now on.
Welcome to the tried and true tactic of “isolationism” that undue-influencers and inheritance predators use to employ their craft of stealing family inheritances.
Therefore, be on the lookout for this. In another day and age, you could let an un-returned phone call slide. You could turn the other way when you are being told that your family member cannot see. Other days you could do that. But, not today. Because today, more than ever– inheritance is poison.
Be warned. Too many families have become the victim of a seemingly wonderful home health aide, who turns out to be an inheritance predator, and abuses his/her position to turn elderly family members against their loved ones.
Don’t kid yourself by telling yourself that the aid has tons of good references or comes from a good agency, because — inheritance is poison. And trust assured, unless you are prepared, you will never see this move coming. That’s because it does not work if you could see it coming.
Remember, it is not hard to abuse the position of a home health aid. These aids are around your family members 24/7, and your family member grows to be dependent on them, so if the aid is a predator – then stealing an inheritance is like taking candy from a baby, unless you stop them.
Therefore, be smart. Once you decide to put an elderly family member under the care of a live-in-caregiver, don’t let too much time go by between contacts, visits, and calls. Enlist multiple family members and friends to make routine and alternating calls and visits. Think about hiring multiple caregivers so that your family member does not become too reliant on any single one of them.
Keep tempting items like jewelry, silver, paintings (i.e., anything valuable) out of the house- because as the old adage goes- “What the eyes sees, the eyes wants.” Also, limit access to “petty cash” and bank accounts, to reduce and remove avenues of potential abuse.
Work with your family member’s estate planner to take necessary estate planning steps to safeguard their estate, like obtaining a durable power of attorney over the family member, funding revocable trusts of which you are the trustee, and doing other things to limit the family member’s control and access to their cash and assets. Make sure that you are constantly checking the land/title records to make sure that a quit claim deed was not procured for the house.
But don’t let it get that far. If you are being told that the family member is not available on the phone, then get in the car and go visit the family member. Insist on seeing them. Make sure that you have your own sets of keys to the residence and a written grant of permission to enter the premises from your family member, so that you can always get inside. Make sure that the family member has his/her own cellphone, or some other means of communications, which is independent from the house phone.
Be ever vigilante when you employ a live-in home health aid for your family member, because remember- inheritance is poison.