Help Clients Protect Elderly Parents from Caregiver Fraud
Consider the following scenario: Your clients are a middle-aged couple with kids in school and full time jobs. One of them — the husband or the wife — has an elderly mother living an hour or two away who needs more care than your clients can give on a daily basis — but Mom isn’t so infirm to require entering a nursing home.
So your clients hire an in-home caregiver to help meet Mom’s daily needs: meals, medication and exercise for the body and mind.
Things seem to be going great for a while, but then your clients notice little things that bother them. When they call Mom, the caregiver says Mom is resting and can’t come to the phone. When asked how things are going, the caregiver gives a vague “great!” or “just fine” as an answer — but no details. When your clients finally manage to speak to Mom, she prattles on and on about the caregiver without asking about her grandchildren or other members of the family.
These can be signs, Caring.com says, that caregiver has crossed the boundary of professionalism and cultivated a personal relationship. And a personal connection can leave Mom ripe for theft and fraud. http://tinyurl.com/l4t7ykq
Do the right thing
As advisors, whenever a client’s suspicions are raised about possible fraud, we should encourage them that now is the time to take action — not later.
If they used an agency to hire a caregiver, your clients should contact the company. A good home caregiver firm will have a process for filing a complaint and investigating the caregiver, Agingcare.com says, especially if theft is suspected. If the company is bonded, it will alert its insurance agency, which will start its own investigation. If your clients are still not satisfied, they should contact police and tell the agency they are going to do so. http://tinyurl.com/kw47cs5
Your clients might end up firing the caregiver, but if Mom developed a personal relationship, she may resist efforts to find new in-home help. This might persist even if your clients bring her evidence of stealing. Loneliness and isolation can make the elderly more susceptible to exploitation, Caring.com says, from small expenditures to fraud and even identity theft, so document everything.
A pound of prevention
Just like advising clients on choosing the right investments and retirement strategies to pursue, doing their due diligence before hiring a caregiver can help head off problems down the road. While using a reputable agency is usually the best bet, not all agencies do thorough background checks on people they hire. Interview the agency’s supervisor, advises AARP, to find out information about the caregiver. Be sure to check all references the caregiver has on file. http://tinyurl.com/mo463e3
If clients decide not to use an agency, urge them to be extra careful about hiring anyone on their own. They shouldn’t just hire someone with a Craigslist ad and call it good. Checking records takes time, especially in other states in which the caregiver might have worked or lived. Call all references and hire an outside firm to perform a criminal background check.
Words to the wise
There are several ways to help prevent theft, AARP reports:
• Keep a complete inventory of valuables the parent owns, with pictures and descriptions, and put them in a safe or remove them from the home.
• Don’t invite petty theft. Mom shouldn’t need a large amount of cash on hand. Make sure she keeps her checkbook, credit and debit cards, and computer passwords in a secure place.
• Watch Mom’s credit card statements and bank accounts. Your clients may want to receive duplicate statements or have online access to Mom’s accounts so they can monitor them. Look for unusual activity, AARP says, including an account that’s suddenly bleeding cash, unusual credit card transactions and checks made out to cash.
When it comes to an elderly loved one, protection — and prevention — is the next best thing to being there.
We hope this information was useful to you, your clients and their families. To get more information regarding this or any related topic, please visit our website www.TEPLG.com or call us at 630-871-8778.