Is the person who takes care of your parent taking advantage of that parent instead? Sometimes there are obvious solutions, such as replacing the caregiver or discussing your concerns with your parent (or the parent’s spouse). But what if the caregiver is your sibling…or the parent trusts the caregiver?
Here’s what to do if a caregiver might be robbing your parent of his/her freedom or assets…
• Confirm your suspicions. Is it suddenly difficult to contact your parent? When you do reach him, is the caregiver always nearby monitoring the conversation? As a start, ask the parent’s other relatives and friends whether their observations match yours.
Next: Visit your parent in his home. Controlling caregivers often isolate their victims to deepen their dependence—so observe whether your parent has time outside the caregiver’s presence (ideally with friends) and whether he is housebound despite being mobile. Also check whether valuables are missing…and whether the parent has access to all of his own mail. (And scan that mail to make sure that he still is receiving his bank, credit card and investment statements—abusive caregivers often change addresses on file so that mail is sent to them.)
• Focus outside eyes on your parent’s situation. To do this, offer to pay for visits from a professional care manager. This person will coordinate your parent’s care—and watch for signs of elder abuse. The local Area Agency on Aging or the Aging Life Care Association likely can help you find a care manager. Expect to pay $100 to $200 per hour.
Also ask your parent whether he stays in touch with a financial adviser. If not, suggest that he do so. You can alert a financial adviser (or estate planner) to watch for suspicious transactions.
• Consider corrective steps. If you determine that a caregiver is exerting undue control and your family cannot remedy the situation on its own…
Report your concerns to the Adult Protective Services department in your parent’s state. This agency can assess the situation and might take steps to protect your parent.
Hire an attorney to petition for your guardianship or conservatorship (depending on the state) of your parent. This is an option if the parent is no longer capable of looking after his own affairs. The bar association in your parent’s home state may direct you to appropriate attorneys. This can be a lengthy and expensive process and usually is a last resort, but it’s needed in some cases to stop an abusive caregiver.