Protecting Our Loved Ones as They Age

As our loved one’s age, they become more vulnerable to financial abuse and potential fraud.  One of the best ways to ensure their protection is to document their wishes in advance and have a plan in place that is known by both their family and their trusted advisors.

We hope you find the checklist helpful as you plan and care for your loved ones.

Build a support team and document your loved one’s goals

  1. Family or friend contact list, including name, phone number, and email address
  2. Medical Team:
    • Name of doctors/specialists and phone numbers
    • Medical insurance information, date of birth (a copy of the insurance card)
    • Is there a Medical (“Advanced”) Directive?
    • Define goals and the type of care your loved one would like to receive at different life stages, if appropriate
  3. Pharmacy:
    • Name and phone number of Pharmacy
    • Determine if a pre-authorization is needed to order prescriptions on behalf of your loved one; confirm with your loved one’s physician if their Medical Directive will allow you to pick up prescriptions on their behalf
  4. Estate Attorney:
    • Name and phone number
    • Ensure that will or trust documents are current to meet your loved one’s goals
    • Review the name of their personal representative or trustee and update, if needed
    • Have them update their Power of Attorney, with gifting powers, if appropriate
  5. Financial Assets and Accounts
    • Document the location of all financial information: brokerage investment accounts, IRA’s, insurance policies, annuities, bank and credit union accounts so that they are readily available
    • Ensure the titling of beneficiaries on all financial assets and accounts meets your loved one’s goals
    • Caution: A Power of Attorney can only be used if your loved one’s physician has deemed them to be incompetent
  6. Financial Advisor:
    • Name and phone number
    • With your loved one, review their asset allocation to ensure their cash flow meets their needs
  7. Tax Advisor:
    • Name and phone number
    • Develop retirement and long-term care plans with the current cash flow
  8. Insurance Broker:
    • Name and phone number
    • Review any existing policies (life, home, car, renter, umbrella) to ensure that they meet the needs for a surviving spouse, disabled children or any debts

Protect your loved ones from becoming a victim of financial abuse

Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are stolen by primary caregivers, family members, or new “friends”. This includes: forging checks, stealing Social Security benefits, unauthorized use of personal bank and credit cards, or changing beneficiaries on wills, life insurance policies or titles to real estate without permission.

  1. What are some of the warning signs that your loved one may need your help?

    • A “best friend” appears and isolates them from the family
    • They indicate a caregiver or family member is aggressive
    • Their driving skills decline, possibly leading to auto accidents
    • Your loved one has recently had more falls or poor hygiene
    • They struggle with memory loss and/or confusion
    • You see stacks of unopened mail or discover bills that are unpaid
    • They have sudden weight loss and complain about a lack of energy
  2. What you should look for to detect personal financial abuse:

    • Sudden changes in bank account or credit card balances
    • Unexplained withdrawals of money or ATM charges
    • The addition of names on bank signature cards as a joint account
    • Household items begin disappearing
    • Changes to a will, life insurance policy, or Certificate of Deposits
    • An unexplained transfer of money to a family member or caregiver
    • Identity theft noted by the IRS when filing tax return
  3. What you should look for to avoid healthcare fraud:

    • Healthcare abuse can be committed by doctors, hospital staff, and other healthcare workers
    • Double billing for the same service
    • Over-medicating or charging for extra prescriptions
    • Providing inadequate staff or substandard care after full payment
    • Falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims
    • Charging for care that wasn’t provided

How to keep your loved ones safe:

Don’t forget to share this information with your own children, so they know how you want them to take care of you!

  1. Visit or phone family members often, or use Skype to check in
  2. Accompany loved ones to doctor’s appointments and take notes
  3. Complete a background check of all in-home caregivers
  4. Consider a life alert system
  5. Do a safety check of the home to help prevent accidents or injuries
  6. Consider limiting online access to bank and credit card accounts
  7. Install security cameras to protect against a home invasion
  8. Insist on respite care even if a care giver insists they can handle it
  9. Use credit monitoring services to detect fraud
  10. Make sure you have a house key and alarm code for your loved one’s home in the event you need to enter in an emergency
  11. Have a conversation with your loved one if you feel it has become unsafe for them to drive
  12. Consider adding an app to your cell phone that allows you to track your loved one’s cell phone location in the event they become lost. GPS devices in loved one’s shoes could also be an option
  13. Have a description and the license plate of your loved one’s car in the event a Silver Alert is ever necessary
  14. Ask your loved one’s trusted neighbors to contact you if they notice anything of concern
  15. Ask the pharmacist to use blister packs for medication to ensure correct medicine is taken at the proper time
  16. To avoid scams, suggest that your loved ones do not buy infomercial products or make charitable donations from TV advertisements

What you should do if you suspect abuse:

  1. Report suspected abuse to your local Adult Protective Services. In Washington State, contact DSHS:
  2. Contact your state attorney’s office by mail:
    Washington State Attorney General: Bob Ferguson
    1125 Washington Street SE
    P.O. Box 40100
    Olympia, WA 98504-0100
  3. Online: https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/ContactForm.aspx
  4. By phone: Main Office (360) 753-6200
  5. File a police report
  6. File Form 14039 with the IRS to protect their tax account
  7. Explore option at your local probate court, if your state has such courts.
  8. Try to get a temporary restraining order from a court while building your case.
  9. Contact appropriate advocacy organizations, who can provide additional guidance on how to investigate and seek justice for elder abuse:
  • The National Center on Elder Abuse: https://ncea.acl.gov/, 1-855-500-3537 (toll-free)
  • National Adult Protective Services Association: napsa-now.org, 1-217-523-4431 (toll-free)
  • Eldercare Locator: eldercare.gov, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)

Referral help for support:

  • Alzheimer’s Association National Hotline: 1-800-272-3900
  • National Crisis Hotline for Emotional Distress: 1-800-273-8255