by Laurie Salvador, Salvador Davis & Co. Notaries Public –
In the past 30-some-odd years I have had the distinct honour of being chosen to take care of elderly clients’ affairs. This is probably due to the longevity of our firm’s presence in the community and our reputation for honesty and integrity. I have been power of attorney for many clients, and executrix for many more. My pet peeve is elder abuse, and I have seen some pretty unsavoury situations.
More often than not, the abuser is dependent on the older person for money, food or shelter and has a false sense of entitlement. This sense of entitlement can come through being the eldest, taking care of an aging parent, or simply being inconvenienced by a seemingly endless series of phone calls from the parent. Sometimes the adult child is still hanging on to the apron strings (or in this case, the purse strings) of the parent and is living at home or drops by every other day for spending money. There certainly are situations where one adult child has a greater need than other siblings. My recommendation for families where one child is at home or is the main caregiver is to have a family care giving agreement drawn up. This would start with setting out who is responsible for the various duties. To keep things on the up and up, a budget should be drawn and someone other than the child caregiver should be responsible for paying the bills and accounting for the parent’s money.
Another scenario that we see all too often is the private caregiver targeting elderly people who don’t have children. They become overly involved in the older person’s affairs, including taking them to the bank and sometimes obtaining power of attorney. As the elder person ages, they become more and more dependent on the private caregiver. Either knowingly or not, they start to give the caregiver assets or money in the hopes of keeping that person close to them. As dementia or decline weaken the senior, the taking of money other than hourly pay increases. I have even seen cases where the older person wants to transfer their home to the caregiver. That request is usually made with the caregiver in the car outside having primed their client for the meeting. I once had a client who gave very large amounts of money to the caregiver’s children, whom she didn’t even know. The way to prevent this is to have a separate person taking care of all finances, including the payment of the caregiver’s salary. Hiring caregivers from reputable care agencies is the best protection. It might cost a few extra dollars, but professional caregivers are forbidden from accepting gifts and would be terminated if they did so. Beware: a caregiver who brings his or her personal issues into the elder person’s home is seeking sympathy and is, more likely than not, greasing the wheels for assistance with their financial problems.
Open communication is essential in taking care of the elderly. Whoever has that responsibility should have a meeting every few months to go over the care plan, as things change frequently. The care team would include family, the caregiver agency, and the person appointed as Power of Attorney and Health Care Representative. We are all responsible for taking care of our aging parents and neighbours. If you see something suspicious, you should report this to the authorities. In our area, the number to call for health or neglect issues is Island Health at 1-888-533-2273 or for suspected financial abuse call 1-800-663-7867 and ask for the Public Guardian and Trustee.