Charlotte’s Blog

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Grand Theft Auntie

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I have written many times on the medical conditions that rob our older loved ones of their memories, and a lot of older adults fear a dementia diagnosis more than even dying itself.  But there is a wave of activity that robs many of our older loved ones of something that can make their lives challenging for a different reason.

The top two fears that older Americans voice more than the others are a fear of losing their mental faculties and a fear of running out of money before they run out of life.  Well, it turns out that there are no “bad guys” inflicting anyone with dementia, but there are a fair number of criminals looking to take money from older adults in our country.  We are growing a bit used to hyperbole in government reports these days, so let me allow the numbers to do the talking here.  In March the Justice Department released figures that show reported cases of more than two million 65+ year old victims of fraud in which the individuals lost more than $750 million to “bad guys.”

Federal officials are targeting ways to prevent the fraud instead of just apprehending the perpetrators.  What can you do to follow-through?

  1. To counter bogus “charities” – that may be Political Action Committees in disguise – from swindling your older loved ones, the Feds are making the federal registration of charities more rigorous. So, help your older loved one do the research at both the state and federal level before contributing a cent.
  2. Everyone loves getting something for free and “health fairs” are an open market where older adults can get a free bag to be filled with free goodies. Warn your older loved one to not “sign up” at these fairs if the people with the sign-up sheets are asking for a social security number.
  3. And of course, warn mom or dad that if they get a call to fix a purported problem or even if it is a household fixer upper that demands quick payment, it is almost always a sign of fraud being perpetrated.

And this is where I put on my counselor hat and caution that in order to be heard by your older loved one, you cannot sound like you are “parenting” them.  You haven’t switched roles just because mom or dad is “of an age.”  You are sharing a caution.  We all know how to pass along a strong “for your information” to a friend or colleague, and that is the voice an older loved one will best hear.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.

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