Commonly, the victims of elder financial abuse suffer from diminished capacity and are unable to manage their finances in line with their own self-interest and values.
After everything that had transpired up to this point we knew that we needed to go back to San Diego often and keep in touch with our mother on an almost daily basis. Due to our concerns over my mothers finances and her diminished capacity we decided to start the process of getting a Conservatorship in place, which is a long legal process that can be expensive.
A conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.
After informing my cousin Amanda (who was like a daughter to my mother) of what we had discovered (Financial Elder Abuse, Diminished Capacity, etc.) Amanda decided to go visit my mother.
Amanda had been sending groceries to my mother about once a month to make sure she had food. We had mentioned this to Christina during the conversation that we had with her and right after that, the following Text exchange took place between Amanda and Christina.
C: Hi I have a quick question for you…. I was told way back when that you were sending groceries to Irma because you and Elwin were worried that she wasn’t eating enough and was tiny. I am now hearing that it was because she told you that she didn’t have enough money to buy groceries. Can you please confirm your original intent for sending the groceries. I would greatly appreciate clarification. Thank you!
A: Hello Christina, why the questions? I started sending her monthly groceries because I saw that she was too thin and wasn’t eating enough. Her fridge didn’t have much in it. I felt her fragility didn’t allow her to carry too much up the steps so I wanted to save her the trouble. On a subsequent visit we talked about finances and based on her responses, I new that she was barely making ends meet. I felt that she couldn’t afford to buy much and was purchasing less food than what she needed. Her friend also told me that she was feeding her once a week and sending food home with her. She’s a very proud woman and it bothers her to admit her need. She is always telling me that she wants to show her gratitude and send me a little something but is not in a position to do so. I have always reassured her that I don’t need or want anything from her other than to see a little more weight on her bones.
C: Ok, thank you.
I find this exchange very interesting, it is like Christina was hoping that it was not about money, the money they had taken from my mother. We later came to find out that a lot of this food made it to Sam and Christina’s.
While there, Amanda would take her to a couple of doctors appointments that we had scheduled on our initial visit and help out with some of the initial paperwork for the consevatorship as well as a the ride service ‘On the Go’.
Prior to Amanda’s visit my mother had a bone density test and the results showed a 40% decrease in bone density, she was given Risedronate tablets that needed to be taken once a month on the same day for the next 10 years. The following is what Amanda experienced during her visit and it alarmed us as it was very different from our prior visit with our mother.
“I’ve explained to her that her the Risedronate tablet must be taken once a month on the same day for the next 10 years, twice she’s picked up the box and says “okay, twice a day”. I tried to clear it up for her and I’ve written it on the calendar.”
“She’s already saying that she is not going to take the bone pills because of the side effects it can cause. I told her to ignore what’s written in the packaging.”
“She did not send in the ‘On the Go’ enrollment, the envelope was opened and siting in her stack, she is out of envelopes, I’ll take it with me and mail it.”
“She still thinks that she owes me the August rent payment even though I have explained that it has been deducted from her credit union.”
“I spoke with the social worker from this complex and asked her to follow up on the following:
• Getting to her the rent payment coupons so that going forward your mom can pay by mail.
• That they check on her at least once a week, that they change her access code to the gate (it will different as of Monday and she may be locked out without the new code).
• That they take a look at the moldy and mildew state of her carpet (it’s gross and damp to the touch) there may be moisture seeping underneath and this may be cause of her chronic cough.
“Her car was horrendous to drive, I believe that it needs steering wheel fluid (she should not be driving anymore anyway, she has little to no recollection of how to get anywhere, that may be the reason she is staying home and becoming disconnected from the world.”
“I reminded her that she does not need to go to the bank because we already went today and she had $100 in her wallet, she did not believe me until she looked and found it. She said that she would put it in a wallet she keeps in her drawer by the bed and I said that was a good idea. She went and placed it there, came back to the table and proceeded to once again say that she lost the money and couldn’t find it. I told her that she just got through putting it in the drawer and she looked at me in disbelief and went back to check again.”
“My dear Cuz, she needs help and should no longer be left alone.“
This along with some other issues that Amanda saw really had us scared and concerned and it really upset us. It became painfully obvious that there was really no help locally as all my brother Sam and his wife Christina did was take and not help. If they had really been involved, what we found would not have been a shock to them or us. Miguel and I decided to make a surprise visit to my mother the following month. What happened and what we discovered on that trip was so astonishing that it proved that Truth is stranger than fiction!
Assessment of Older Adults With Diminished Capacity- A Handbook
FSI | Elder Abuse Resource Center – Financial Services Institute
Stop Elder Abuse Now | Learn How to Report Abuse
Financial Abuse of the Elderly in Domestic Setting – Elder Mistreatment
The story from the beginning:
My Brother Miguel’s Voice & Perspective