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What Do I Do If I Suspect A 'Helpful' Friend Is Stealing From My Parents?
Monday, January 18, 2010
My elderly father has cancer, my mother is still able to care for him but it is taxing all of her energy and she is confused at times. I live quite distant but visit weekly. Recently a neighbour in their apartment has been, "helping" and change from money given for groceries is not being returned. My mother also mentioned an incident in which this same person knocked on her door and asked for a specific amount of money. She refused but is distressed by this. There have been other occasions of "borrowing" food and items which when unreturned my mother has had to go and ask for. This is ringing bells for me that say, "elder abuse". How can I approach this problem as this person has close access to my currently vulnerable parents and I do not?
Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse, financial abuse, often refers to the theft or misuse of money or property like household goods, clothes or jewelry. It can also include withholding funds and/or fraud.
The following list contains examples of financial abuse and is reproduced from: Financial Abuse of Older Adults: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence; Teresa Lukawiecki; 1999
How Can You Help?
- large sums of money are taken from a bank account
- Signatures on cheques or other papers look suspicious
- The older person is in debt and does not know why
- Bank statements are no longer being sent to the older person's home
- The older person cannot buy food or personal care items, or pay bills
- The older person's will is unexpectedly changed
- The older person's home is unexpectedly sold
- Personal belongings, such as clothes or jewellery, are missing from an older person's home or room in an institution
- The older person is asked to sign legal papers (such as a power of attorney, a will or a joint deed to a house) without being able to understand what they mean
- The older person cannot remember signing papers or making certain money transfers
- The older person is not allowed to decide or speak for himself or herself
- The older person is isolated from friends and family
- The older person feels afraid or worried when talking about money
You can help by doing such things as dropping in for a visit, inviting them to your house for a visit, taking them with you on outings, offering to run errands (e.g. grocery shopping) and/or offering to assist them in contacting people with whom they have lost touch.
If they appear to be in need of assistance in caring for themselves or their home you could help by informing them of any home support services available through their local Community Care Access Centre and/or community senior support services such as those providing Meals on Wheels or Friendly Visiting.
The Ontario Seniors' Secretariat's "A Guide to Programs and Services for Seniors in Ontario" is available on their website www.ontarioseniors.ca
Tips on Preventing the Abuse of Older Adults
- Educate yourself about the abuse of older adults and the rights of older adults
- Become involved in your local abuse of older adults Committee or Network and encourage the development of educational sessions for older adults on their rights
- Learn about the rights of seniors and explain these rights to older adults that you know
- Listen to older adults - take time when speaking to them about their current situation and offer suggestions regarding how they might keep themselves, and their assets, safe
- Take an older friend out to lunch, visit them, call them to see how they are doing - in short, keep in touch older adult family members and friends
There are also several other sources of support available. If you are experiencing abuse, you are not alone; help is available. Service providers are available in your community to assist you. They will help you discuss your plan for increased safety and help you to prepare to protect yourself and your loved ones in case of further abuse.
By calling the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Victim Support Line you can access trained information counselors who can provide information and referral services on elder abuse. The Victim Support Line is toll free, 1-888-579-2888 across Ontario, or in the Toronto area 416-314-2447.
For more information on elder abuse and a list of provincial elder abuse resources, a “What You Need to Know About Elder Abuse: Information Sheet” is available at http://www.citizenship.gov.on.ca/seniors/index.html
or call toll-free 1-888-910-1999 (in Ontario).
Source: ONPEA (Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse)