Bunni Dybniss LCSW, certified care manager and Director of Professional Services at Livhome , a national geriatric care management agency, and I wrote an article explaining why a geriatric care manager can be a key defense against financial elder abuse. I am going to repeat some of the article we wrote for the web site of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
What can a geriatric care manager do to protect elderly clients and their families against financial abuse? Plenty.
As the geriatric care managers earns the trust of older clients and family members, they are well positioned to monitor signs of specific family members taking financial advantage of older people’s money. Geriatric care managers are vigilant in opening the conversation if they suspect a family member is changing their financial relationship with an older adult. It is not uncommon, especially during this economic downturn, for a desperate adult child to play on their parent/child relationship and manipulate parents into providing financial support. This is often well beyond what the elder can afford often jeopardizing their own financial stability. If the Geriatric care manager detects potential financial manipulation they are required as mandated to report the situation to Adult Protective Services. They can involve an elder law attorney, with expertise in this field, trusted family members and community resources, including local Fiduciary Abuse Specialist Team that can work to protect the older person and maintain the family integrity. In addition to looking at this as a way of protecting the older adult, family therapy or mediation often can delve more successfully into resolutions to on-going family pathology.
Geriatric care managers can provide protections against unrelated friends or acquaintances or private caregivers committing undue influence, one the most insidious and legally complicated forms of elder fiscal abuse. This alarm bell for elder abuse occurs when an individual who is stronger or more powerful gets a weaker individual to do something that the weaker person would not have done otherwise. That stronger person, often a caregiver, family member, friend or confidence man, uses various techniques or manipulations, over time, to gain power and compliance. Caregivers can do this because the older person is dependent on them for care and emotional support. This makes this relationship potentially deadly. Family members can set up this same scenario and take advantage of an older person by slowly controlling and isolating them from other family and friends. . Caregiver’s often set up schemes of undue influence if there is no one monitoring an older person. They then take advantage of this lack of monitoring by bilking the older person of large amounts of money, changing their estate or supporting their own family at the expense of the elder. . Undue influence is one of the two most common grounds for contesting a will of estate. In the role of geriatric care manager the geriatric care managers can reduce the dependence on one individual by making sure there is more that one unrelated caregiver on the case, and provide other outside supports to assure the elder there are many people available to provide for their wellbeing. Not only can the geriatric care managers reduce the fears and dependency of the elder, but also they can potentially preserve the family estate so it goes where it rightfully belongs.
By reducing their access to the older person, geriatric care managers can protect clients against con artists, door-to-door salesmen, mail and telemarketing schemes purporting to offer the opportunity to “get rich quick.” Geriatric care managers can set up systems to screen mail and telephone calls for the vulnerable older adult. When the situation is extreme, this often means diverting mail to a trusted relative, professional or post office box and only introducing appropriate mail to the elder. Geriatric care managers can engage older people in daily activities and enjoyable social engagements to combat the lonesomeness that often leads to elders seeking out the crooks that offer free lunches, companionship and other enticements.
Geriatric care managers are knowledgeable about the symptoms of elder abuse so they can respond proactively and reduce the damage to these victims. Starting with an assessment that identifies the red flags, a plan of care can be developed, as we do for any other need. Fiscal elder abuse can be avoided by treating the isolation and loneliness that older people often suffer. Unlike in the past, families often live long distance, are pre-occupied with their own work and family commitments and are not there to monitor their older relatives.
Geriatric care managers as their surrogates are well positioned to step in to protect older and dependent adults from those who prey on the vulnerability of this population. Geriatric care managers are able to arrange daily activities that meet the elders’ interests, preferences and social needs. Care managers can be there to introduce new routines, make sure they get there and monitor whether the plan is successful.
Geriatric care managers are well positioned to not only enhance the lives of seniors, but also prevent elder abuse. So if you suspect elder abuse with a loved , investigate hiring a geriatric care manager. Find one on their web site today.