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:
The key is to take immediate action and do whatever you can to stop further access to the assets of the victim:
These measures will help safeguard the potential victim:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.