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Caregivers: Beware of Elder Fraud

Caregivers: beware of elder fraud. It can have a devastating impact on people with #dementia. Insurance, credit, and financial offers are often hard to assess even when your brain is sharp. When people start losing cognitive skills, they’re more vulnerable to accepting offers they don’t understand. While paying my mother’s bills, I discovered a very fishy insurance policy being billed to my mom’s bank account. My search for facts led to a painful conclusion.

Caregivers: Beware of Elder Fraud

My mom has had dementia for ten years. I took care of her in my home in the early years of her disease.  At some point in the first phase of her illness, someone sold her an insurance policy that had no relevance to her life. She never mentioned the policy to me and I never saw any mail or documents related to it. When I started paying her bills, I saw a recurring debit code on her account. But it didn’t mention the company name so I wasn’t sure where the money was going.  I assumed it was an automatic deduction that paid for something she valued or needed. She set up similar deductions for utilities and other bills.

Big companies, bad reputations

In 2009, Wells Fargo took over Mom’s Wachovia bank accounts. If you read the news, you probably know that a huge fine was levied on #WellsFargo for having 3.5 million fake bank accounts on its books. The fake accounts were opened between 2009 and 2016. According to the New York Times,”thousands of employees, trying to meet aggressive sales goals, had created accounts in customers’ names without their knowledge. Workers who met the bank’s sales targets received bonuses… those who did not risked losing their jobs.”

My research revealed that my mother’s useless insurance policy was part of another Wells Fargo bank initiative. After I issued a formal request for investigation, I found out that her automatic debit was paying the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh. The policy was part of a partnership between Wells Fargo and that company. A little more study revealed that the National Fire Insurance Company is a subsidiary of AIG. Remember #AIG? It’s the company that nearly collapsed during the Bush Administration because “in the fourth quarter of 2008 [it] posted a loss of $61.7 billion, the greatest ever for any corporation.” President Bush said the nation had to bail out AIG because its collapse could create “a severe disruption in our financial markets and threatened other sectors of the economy.” Well, even after AIG received a $170 billion taxpayer funded bailout, the U. S. economy tanked on its own.

Figuring out the source of fraud

Fast forward to my mom’s useless insurance policy. Wells Fargo (=fake accounts) creates a relationship with National Union Fire Insurance/AIG (=corporate welfare gluttons) to sell insurance to Wells Fargo customers. A recurring debit to pay for the policy was set up using Mom’s account number, to which Wells Fargo had access. If Mom purchased the insurance herself, her birthdate and address would have been accurate on the policy. Even if she couldn’t remember this information, it would have been right there in her desk drawer. The address was on every piece of mail. Yet somehow these details were wrong when I received the policy documents. At the time the policy started, she was in my house 90% of the time. When and how did this thing begin?

My mom is finally free of the corporate leech that stole her resources. But this is just one incident among hoards of scams to con elders out of their money. I still get calls from credit card companies and people who want to buy Mom’s former home. It’s hard to believe the number of offers she receives for car insurance — even though she hasn’t driven in 11 years. #Caregivers are often the only gatekeepers who can monitor these scams. Please keep your eyes open! If you discover a problem you can document, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  An ounce of prevention can be so effective! It’s much better than pursuing justice for loved ones who can’t even remember who conned them.

 

Caring for Frail Neighbors

Caring for frail neighbors can save lives during weather disasters. This week the #bombcyclone put our village through a week of the coldest weather I can remember. Today the temperature rose from MINUS 5 Fahrenheit  to 18 degrees. Yet, somehow it actually felt warm!

Caring for Frail Neighbors

When my mom was here, I suffered from a sense of desperate loneliness during weather events like this. Even though we usually had enough fuel and food, the people who supported us could not get to our house. Snow, ice, and school cancellations kept them at home. Now that mom is receiving care in a 24-hour setting, I don’t face the same barriers and isolation. Though I’m often sad about her absence, I now have more time to help others living around me.

There are several older neighbors in my community who suffer from serious health problems. Mary, for example, lives on the lane behind our property. She took care of her sick husband for many years. He had multiple heart operations with many different complications. Like me, she suffered shoulder dislocations from lifting a loved one when there was no one available to help. Mary served as a home #caregiver who looked after her husband until the very end of his life.

Mary also helped me on many occasions during my mother’s illness. Hardship never stole her sense of humor or spiritual faith. But now she’s the one suffering from health problems. Despite her physical limitations, Mary hates to ask for help. Like so many elders, she won’t admit when she needs assistance.

When caring for frail neighbors or family

It’s easy to think that elders turn down offers of help because they’re being  proud or stubborn. But an interesting research study from the University of Oregon helps explain why many elderly people refuse aid from people who care about them. Professor Michelle Barnhart found that elders were less likely to accept help if the person offering assistance made them feel old.  

According to Barnhart,”Almost every stereotype we associate with being elderly is something negative, from being ‘crotchety’ and unwilling to change to being forgetful. Conflicts come up when someone does not think of themselves as old — but people in their family or caregiving group are treating them as such.”

The findings from this research can be very helpful when you’re reaching out to an older friend or family member. When my mom first got sick, she got furious the day I suggested she get involved in something fun at the Senior Center. Why? Because Senior Centers are for old people! So as you check in on the elders in your life — whether you’re worried about their memory or their food supply — try to offer help in a way that treats their age as a well-kept secret.