Part Two in a Series on Financial Abuse
Reduce Financial Abuse
The key to reducing financial abuse is to plan appropriately to avoid it. It is crucial to begin this planning while the elder person is still competent. It is essential to engage the advice of a legal professional with an expertise in that area.
Although there is no foolproof method of avoiding financial abuse, here are a few simple strategies that may reduce the risk. These are in addition to frequent contact and visits with the elder.
Engage a legal professional with expertise in estate planning and in minimizing elder abuse.
Help simplify the vulnerable person’s finances. Set up automatic deposits and bill payments to reduce the need for bank visits or Powers of Attorney.
Be very cautious in granting unlimited enduring Powers of Attorney to others.
Do a full inventory of the vulnerable person’s household belongings and property; a video record and photos will assist. Make multiple copies and keep one outside the home.
Whenever possible, hire a caregiver through a reputable agency.
Conduct a thorough background check; insist on having and checking multiple references.
Before any caregiver is engaged—friend, family, or stranger—agree in writing on the terms of engagement.
The terms should be fair to both sides. Thus, any caregiver should be properly recompensed, whether family or stranger.
An appropriate termination period should be included so that upon the death of the elder, for example, the caregiver is not left homeless and unemployed. A provision for 3 months further pay and lodging may well alleviate his or her fears and ensure the caregiver is fully focused on the elder until the end of the contract.
The caregiver should acknowledge in writing his or her understanding of the vulnerability of the elder and agree not to accept anything more than a token gift from his or her charge.
The contract should provide for mandatory weekly respite care for the caregiver and annual respite care of at least 2 weeks. Respite care is crucial for the mental health of the caregiver, to ensure independent input into the care of the elder and to ensure there can be no complete isolation of the vulnerable person.
The agreement should provide for impromptu visits with no notice.
Keep banking and financial records off the premises.
Provide for the semi-annual review of accounts by designated parties.
Designate “gatekeepers” that may include neighbours, banking staff, family physicians, and legal professionals. Make them aware of the arrangements and give them contact numbers for the family and the Public Guardian and Trustee.
Last, if all else fails, to report financial abuse in British Columbia, visit the Website of the Public Guardian and Trustee. www.trustee.bc.ca