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Is your elderly loved one at risk of being scammed?

Monday , December 21 , 2020

Is your elderly loved one at risk of being scammed?

The financial exploitation of aging adults is an increasingly large problem in the United States. In fact, The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that one in twenty seniors have indicated some form of perceived financial abuse in the last year.

According to some experts, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is going to make things even worse.

Why does this happen? Scammers view the elderly as easy prey–especially now that social distancing measures have cut them off from family, friends, community centers, and other interactions with people who care for them.

To help protect yourself or a loved one from becoming the victim of a financial crime, it’s important to recognize the warning signs and know what to do if you spot them.

What is elder financial abuse?
As defined by the Older Americans Act of 2006, elder financial abuse is:

The fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. 

In other words, it’s taking advantage of an elderly person for financial gain. Usually, it is in the context of a relationship where trust is expected, and it causes harm (both financial and emotional) to the older person involved.

Who is at risk?
According to 2017 study from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the people hit hardest by financial scams (for an average loss of $45,300) were ages 70 to 79, while people aged 80 and over suffered the second highest losses. All older adults can fall victim to financial abuse, however.

Scott Rahm, managing partner at RMO, LLP, says that these days “the economic strain of quarantine leads people to take advantage of others. It’s a perfect storm, with economic pressure on one side and economic opportunity on the other. Right now, these storm clouds are colliding.”

Issues that may leave your loved ones vulnerable include:

  • They may have mental disabilities or cognitive disorders
  • They are socially isolated
  • They may be unfamiliar with technology and not realize what they are granting access to or signing off on
  • They often have predictable financial patterns (for instance, they receive their Social Security check at the same time every month)
  • Perpetrators may assume that the elderly person will be too embarrassed to confront them or go to authorities

Who commits these crimes?
Typically, the perpetrator of financial crimes against the elderly is someone they know, such as a spouse or caretaker. They may feel as though what the elderly person has is “rightfully theirs” or that they are owed something.

Offenders can include:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Bankers or investment professionals
  • Health care workers
  • And more

How do you know if your loved one is being taken advantage of?
Just as physical abuse against elders has signs and clues, so does financial abuse. Just one indicator doesn’t mean that your older adult is being scammed, but if you notice several of the following, you might want to take a closer look:

  • Unexplained bank withdraws or transfers
  • Unpaid bills or utilities being disconnected due to nonpayment
  • Eviction notices
  • Lack of amenities the person could normally afford (food, clothing, outings, etc.)
  • Cancelled checks made out to an unfamiliar name
  • Forgeries on legal documents, including powers of attorney or last will and testaments
  • Loans or credit cards being opened in the older adult’s name
  • The elderly adult complains of missing belongings or cash

How is elder financial abuse carried out?
There are countless ways in which elder financial abuse is perpetrated. Here are some of the most common:

  • An acquaintance coerces the older adult into signing over power of attorney and then uses that designation to acquire money and assets
  • A caretaker who has access to a senior’s bank card or checks uses them to make purchases for themselves
  • Loved ones or friends may threaten to withhold care until they receive money
  • A scammer may tell the elderly adult that they won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they can’t claim the prize until they send in money to cover taxes
  • Thieves may pretend to be law enforcement, utilities workers, or building maintenance people in order to gain access to the senior’s home and steal physical belongings or cash
  • A perpetrator may claim to work for a charity foundation in order to collect donations
  • Scammers may pretend to be the elderly adult’s grandchild or other loved one and ask to borrow money due to an unexpected hardship

It happened to us: My husband’s stepfather was temporarily taken in by a smooth-talking guy who promised a wonderful investment opportunity. Luckily, he wizened up and didn’t send the money–but that didn’t stop the scammer from calling back several times and threatening to come to the house to collect his cash.

What to do if you suspect the financial abuse of an elder
These days, more than ever, it’s vital to check in our elderly loved ones. The earlier you spot the signs of financial abuse, the better. The first thing to do is discuss your concerns with your loved one but be patient: they are likely to be embarrassed about the situation. If the perpetrator is someone you know, ask them questions in a non-confrontational way–often just knowing that someone is on to them is enough to deter further activity.

If matters seem out of hand, contact the authorities. Medicare Advantage has a wonderful list of both state and national resources that can help if someone you know has fallen victim.

Tell us: have any older adults in your life been the victim of a financial scam?

Originally published February 2019, updated December 2020

Posted in: Aging

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Is In-home Care the Better Choice Post Covid-19?

Tuesday , September 15 , 2020

Is In-home Care the Better Choice Post Covid-19?

According to the California Healthcare Foundation, more than 40% of Covid-19 fatalities so far were nursing home residents or workers. And that number is true across the nation – not just in the Golden State.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be. Despite strict regulations, nursing homes have long struggled with infection control.

The same organization states that “nursing homes are hot spots because they combine numerous risk factors for transmission: congregate living, a mostly elderly population with underlying health conditions, and inadequate staffing, PPE, and infection control for an emergency.”

And the public has taken notice. Healthcare consulting firm Transcend Strategy Group recently surveyed 1,000 family healthcare decision-makers across the country and found that two-thirds of respondents say they plan to use in-home care rather than facility-based care in the future.

Among those surveyed, 65% said Covid-19 has changed their opinions about how to best care for older adults, while 68% said they don’t believe that quality care can be provided in congregate settings.

We’ve put together a brief overview of in-home care, so you can make your own decision. Keep reading to learn more:

Aging in Place 

Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

There is no time this is truer, perhaps, than as we enter old age. According to the AARP, three out of four adults say they want to age in place, even if they need help with day-to-day activities.

Many seniors fear dying alone in a nursing home, surrounded by people they don’t know. When the time comes, they’d prefer to be at home, in an environment that feels safe and in the company of those they love.

The Benefits of In-Home Care 

Home care can provide a variety of benefits for older adults who choose to age in place. Among the most important advantages is assistance with activities of daily living, including help with cooking, cleaning, and even bathing. Here are some other pluses you may be unaware of:

  • It may seem obvious, but in-home care allows seniors the opportunity to age in place among their friends, family, and those they care about most. This can directly contribute to better mental and physical health as they age.
  • Older adults who age in place feel a greater sense of freedom and the independence to live life on their own terms.
  • In-home care providers can perform a wide variety of services, from help with daily activities to round-the-clock care.
  • Home care professionals can provide family caregivers with peace of mind that their loved one is safe and secure while they go to work or tend to other duties.
  • Older adults who have had surgery or have been hospitalized for an illness face a lesser risk of falls when recovering at home. Home care can also reduce the risk of hospital readmission.
  • If your older loved one has specific medical needs, in-home nurses can provide skilled treatment, including wound care, intravenous infusions, and tracheostomy management.
  • With in-home care and the rise of wearable technology, older adults can now receive continuous monitoring from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Much more.

Of course, there are cases where an assisted living facility is the only option – and there are pros and cons to both in-home care and living in a nursing home. One of the biggest considerations should be the health needs of your older loved one. Remember to involve them in the decision-making process and do your research.

Posted in: Home Care

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Telemedicine: A Safer Option for Seniors

Monday , July 27 , 2020

Telemedicine: A Safer Option for Seniors

Providing care for your older loved one can be complex and challenging during the best of times. Supporting those same loved ones during the covid-19 pandemic requires extra precautions to keep them safe.

Research shows that adults aged 60 and older, especially those with preexisting conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are more likely to have a severe coronavirus infection than other groups.

Because of this, many older adults are choosing to forgo regular doctor appointments. For example, someone with diabetes may opt to postpone a regular follow-up visit to avoid potential exposure to coronavirus. But while covid-19 is dangerous, so is ignoring everyday medical needs.

What’s the solution? Telemedicine.

Telemedicine has become the norm for many people, both young and old, in the last few months. It’s a cost-effective healthcare solution that allows for independence in the aging population while still keeping them safe.

Keep reading for more information:

What is Telehealth?

A telehealth appointment is simply a regular doctor visit done over the phone or on a computer. The doctor’s office will provide your older loved one with a special phone number or link that they can use to connect with their physician privately, in a safe and secure environment.

Their doctor can address concerns, make suggestions, and even prescribe medication over the call.

The benefits are many. Besides the convenience of “seeing” a doctor from the comfort of their own home, telemedicine appointments don’t require any transportation, and they reduce exposure to covid-19 and other viruses.

Types of Telehealth 

There are three main types of telemedicine available for seniors. These are the options:

  • Synchronous telehealth involves real-time communication. A phone call or two-way video conferencing is used to communicate from afar.
  • Asynchronous telehealth is the a store-and-forward process, similar to email. Using a secure platform, the patient can share medical data with their doctor who will review it and respond later.
  • Remote patient monitoring allows for the tracking of vital signs using sensors, cameras, and other devices.

 Making the Most of a Visit

Just like in-person doctor visits, your older loved one should go to their telemedicine appointment prepared. Here are a few tips:

  • Make a list of the issues they want to address so nothing gets missed. This is especially important during telehealth visits, where people are more likely to lose their train of thought.
  • Keep track of symptoms and when they started/if they’ve changed. A brief record can help the doctor figure out what is causing symptoms.
  • Have any medical equipment that the doctor has prescribed on hand.
  • Take and share photos of obvious symptoms, such as bites, moles, or rashes.
  • Call from a quiet place so the doctor is able to hear and understand.
  • Don’t forget to address routine medical issues, like medication refills or paperwork required by the insurer.

Sometimes Face-to-Face is Best

Despite the ongoing pandemic, sometimes an office visit is the best option. For urgent or complex issues, such as dehydration from vomiting, the doctor’s office is still open for business.

Remember, an emergency is still an emergency: Sometimes the doctor needs to examine a patient and check vital signs to make an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, telemedicine doesn’t work for preventative procedures such as colonoscopies or mammograms.

Bottom line? In most instances, telemedicine offers a convenient and safe way to receive healthcare. When so much of regular life has been upended, it’s a great, stress-free way to connect with medical professionals.

Posted in: Health

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