Both men and women are financial abuse targets, but more women are exploited and abused because they live longer. In addition, the targets…
- Typically live alone or with a non-spouse relative √
- Have assets (a mortgage-free home, jewelry, etc.) and resources (bank, savings, retirement and investment accounts) √
- Often have chronic conditions — arthritis, heart disease, cognitive impairment, etc. — that make it difficult to get out and isolate them. √
- Were raised in a time when women were taught to be giving, nice and polite √
√ Unfortunately all the bullet points above were checked off for my mother.
We did not find out about the Financial Abuse until 2016 when it all unraveled and my mother asked for help. Prior to that there had been some signs and I wish I had paid better attention. That is now in the past and the least I can do is make people aware of this issue and tell my story.
The first sign was an email sent to me and my brothers from my cousin (who was like a daughter to my mother). The following are excerpts from that email:
“I recently had the pleasure of visiting with your mom. You all know that she is very special to me and it always frustrates me when I have to go so long between visits. The rest is not so easy for me to say. Her living situation is the following:
• Health – morbidly thin, nothing but skin hanging on a very small skeletal frame. She is hard of hearing, with an unbalanced wobbly gait. She has a difficult time navigating stairs. This is probably the reason that she cannot carry groceries to her apartment on the second level and the lack of food contributes to her malnourishment.
• Her physical condition and challenging steps also contributes to her inability to do laundry.
• Her physical condition limits her driving ability and therefore she only navigates within a very restricted geographic parameter (thank God).
• Her finances have grown tighter, limiting her ability to: shop for enough groceries; request and physically move to a first floor location; and finally, follow-up with her healthcare needs (she has not seen a doctor since January, but has lost significant weight and has grown alarmingly weaker since then).
At her age, she really needs to have support and be surrounded by a loving family. She may only have a few months to a couple of years left and it would be terribly sad and grossly shameful to receive a call alerting any one of you regarding the finding of a lifeless body, and to learn of your mother’s death in a lonely apartment surrounded by no one. It is not my intent to be critical, but to raise awareness. She may have successfully hidden her situation from you and I’m just trying to bring clarity to her situation.”
At the point that I received this email I was sending my mother anywhere from $250 to $500 per month to help her out and finish paying back the interest on a loan she had given me. I called her immediately and spoke to her regarding the information I had gotten from my dear cousin. She assured me she was fine and that the doctor had given her a clean bill of health. I proceeded to tell her that if she ever needed money beyond what I was giving her to not hesitate to ask. She told me she was fine and had plenty of money in savings. After this I started calling her more frequently. She would forget why I was sending her money and I told her that I had paid off the principal of the loan she had given me years earlier and now I was paying back the interest that we had agreed on. I then had the thought to ask her “You aren’t giving the money I am sending you to Sam (Sam Hornedo my younger brother) are you?” She told me “No” that the money was going into her savings. We now know that it along with whatever money she had was going to Sam and there was no more savings. I will continue this story in my next blog post. What I learned from this is to be more involved and a little bit nosy in order to make sure that your elderly parents are not being taken advantage of and to be more involved in their lives. I have to live with this but maybe I can help someone else avoid this sad and disgusting situation.