The financial abuse of
Brooke Astor — played
out in criminal courts
and tabloids in 2009 — was a vivid
reminder of the vulnerability a
disease such as Alzheimer’s causes,
opening the door to potential
financial abuse. The Alzheimer’s
Association educates families and
caregivers on the ways people can
be victimized, stressing advance
planning to ensure that someone
with dementia will be as secure and
safe as possible, physically and fiscally.
While technology has made
it easier to access money through
telephone or online banking, ATM’s, automated bill paying
and easy application for new credit lines, it has also made
it easier to be victimized. Two recent examples show how
simple it can be. In one, the boyfriend of the victim’s
caretaker used stolen checking account information to pay
his cable and phone bills online. Because bank statements
were not reviewed carefully, the theft was not caught for
many months. In another, a home health aide who was
completely trusted by the family opened credit cards in
the name of the victim. The caretaker avoided detection
by picking up the mail each day and intercepting the
statements. The fraud was discovered when the credit card
company called the house about a delinquent account —
and a family member answered the phone.
Possible Signs of Financial Abuse
The person with dementia is:
Also be on the lookout for:
- Receiving an insufficient amount of physical care given
- Isolated from family, friends or community.
- Confused or forgetful about finances, or voices concerns
such as missing funds.
- Facing foreclosure or eviction.
What To Do If You Suspect Financial Abuse
- Excessive involvement by a stranger or new friend in
finances, banking or decision-making.
- A caregiver who fails to account properly for funds
(NOTE: providing an ATM card to a caregiver is not
The key is to take immediate action and do whatever you
can to stop further access to the assets of the victim:
Planning To Avoid Financial Abuse
- Call the local county Adult Protective Services or area
Office for the Aging. Complaints in many states are
- Call the District Attorney assigned to adult financial
abuse complaints in your county.
- Notify all financial institutions where the PWD is holding
- Call the Alzheimer’s Association 24-hour Helpline for
further assistance at l-800-272-3900.
These measures will help safeguard the potential victim:
This article does not comprehensively cover the topic
of financial abuse, but hopefully raises your awareness and
motivates you to inquire about ways to protect your loved
one against financial abuse. For more resources, go to
- Protect the privacy of all financial records.
- Send duplicate financial statements, credit card bills,
and utility bills to a trusted individual and review them
monthly. Also have mail forwarded if the potential victim
can no longer review it.
- Run regular credit checks to discover any new or recently
opened credit accounts.
- Have the potential victim execute a Statutory Power
of Attorney with a lawyer, naming trustworthy family
or friends to act as agent in financial matters. If possible,
name multiple agents and successor agents, which
spreads the workload of reviewing statements and permits
agents to check on each other.
JEFFREY G. ABRANDT is a partner at Goldfarb Abrandt Salzman & Kutzin
LL P, with offices in New York City and White Plains, New York. The firm
concentrates in litigation, trusts and estates, health law, guardianship and
rights of the elderly and disabled. Mr. Abrandt has successfully litigated
class action suits involving the rights of nursing home residents and the
Medicaid program, resulting in expanded rights for applicants and recipients.
He has spoken about elder law on television, radio and in many publications,
including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He can
be reached at email@example.com.