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Elderly Financial Exploitation – What are the warning signs?

A man was arrested on charges of elderly exploitation. Exploitation of who? His own parents. The elderly couple, William and Janet Powers, were in their early 70s when they hired an attorney to prepare a Durable Power of Attorney giving authority to their only living child, Ryan Powers.

And shortly thereafter the exploitation began. Only two months later their son redirected his mother’s monthly social security income to an account in his and his mother’s name. Over one hundred times in the next 10 months he used a debit card associated to the account for his personal expenses.

The plan was a good one. Ryan would sell William and Janet’s mobile home and use the proceeds to remodel his own home setting up an apartment where they could live together and close to family. This was especially important since William and Janet were living more than 100 hundred miles apart in different nursing homes due to Medicaid coverage availability.

It was while attempting to qualify for Medicaid that the nursing home noticed inconsistencies in the bank statements Ryan supplied. A call was made to the Department of Children and Families Adult Protective Services to investigate.

Unfortunately, $50,000.00 the funds from the sale of the mobile home were taken by Ryan. William Powers became concerned. He missed his wife. He didn’t want Ryan as Power of Attorney anymore. But he died before that could happen.

Ryan was able to receive a refund from the nursing home since his father passed early in the month. The money was to pay for his father’s funeral. Yet the funeral home was never paid. His father’s body was unclaimed for over 90 days and the county ended up paying for his cremation.

Meanwhile, Janet was left in her nursing home with no cell phone and no money. She had to wear hand-me-downs from people in the nursing home who had passed away.

The stealing continued. Though the home Ryan lived in was in his parents’ name he filed a handwritten quit claim deed to take ownership. A month later, he was arrested. He was later convicted on four counts of elderly exploitation.

At the sentencing hearing a statement from his mother was read in which in part she wrote:

“You dumped us both in separate nursing homes, so we couldn’t even see each other and spend our last days together. You abandoned us like last week’s trash. […] I find some comfort that we will be serving time together. You in your prison and I in mine.”

He was sentenced to 20 years.

Financial abuse and material exploitation of the elderly may not cause physical injuries or leave scars, but it can have devastating effects and ruin the lives of victims.

Factors which make elders susceptible to financial abuse include

  1. Isolation
  2. Loneliness
  3. Physical disabilities
  4. Mental disabilities
  5. Lack of familiarity with financial issues

The following are warning signs of financial elder abuse:

1.  Unusual bank account activity, such as ATM withdrawals at a bank the elder cannot travel to
2.  Signatures on checks and documents that do not match the elder’s signature
3.  Unexplained change in spending patterns or unusual/out of character purchases
4.  Generous gifts to a person the elder has only met recently
5.  Change in power of attorney for unknown reason

Unexplained behavioral changes, such as sudden secrecy or reluctance to speak freely, may also be warning signs of financial elder abuse. If an elder appears withdrawn, helpless, frightened, or angry, this may also indicate that abuse is taking place.

Be aware of the signs and protect the elderly that are in our lives.

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