A person with intellectual disabilities can fall prey to similar financial predators as an elder person with cognitive decline. We see on the TV news stories about unscrupulous individuals and companies taking advantage of seniors. They also take advantage of people with intellectual challenges. My 65-year-old, intellectually-disabled sister is at the intersection of both of those populations. It’s a bit of a double whammy.
Let me share some examples of times my sister has been had! A resident of a facility in which my sister lived shared a cab with her to visit the mall. The “friend” signed up for a cell phone service, having my sister sign the contract. The deal was the “friend” got to use the phone, and my sister paid the bill. Fortunately, my sister’s caseworker found out about the phone and confiscated it. I had to call the cell phone company and tell them to write off the phone and the contract. They had made a poor decision and contracted with a person declared incompetent by the courts.
Another time, my sister signed up for a TV service at an assisted living facility. The salesman let her sign the contract, even though she clearly did not understand it. When my sister had to move in a few months and I called to cancel the service, I learned that she had signed a 3-year contract and would owe hundreds of dollars if she cancelled. I had to let them know she had no legal authority to sign a contract in the first place. They would not be getting any more money.
My sister called me today and said she was signing up to get an emergency pendant to wear in the shower and when she is outside of the ALF. She told them she had no money now but to call her at the beginning of the month. I give my sister an allowance each month on a debit card so that she can go out to lunch or buy a few things she needs. This pendant was going to cost her $25/month. When I told her that she does not have that kind of money, she replied that she has her debit card. She has a total disconnect between the debit card and where that money comes from, even though we talk about it every month.
Children and guardians of seniors face the same issues as my sister, with worse consequences. Most elderly people, even those with advanced dementia, do not have court orders declaring them incompetent. Therefore, they can and do sign away money to scammers and thieves, without any real hope of getting their money back when the truth of the scam comes to light.
There are some resources to help protect your seniors. The FBI has a web site to alert the population of common fraud schemes. https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/seniors AARP has a Fraud Resource Center, and you can sign up for alerts to your phone. American Bankers Association has a web page with tips for fraud protection, as does the National Council on Aging. https://www.aba.com/consumers/pages/protectingtheelderly.aspx
The best plan to protect your elders is to keep them aware of scam schemes and to be diligent in watching over their funds. If you suspect your elder might be someone who could fall prey to fraud or make poor money decisions, it might be time to have the conversation with them about helping them with their finances. They might be quite relieved to give up the burden of paying those bills themselves, and it might protect their financial future.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering in-home Elder Care Services in Orlando FL, please contact the caring staff at Flourish in Place Home Care Solutions today. Proudly serving Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Brevard Counties. Call 407-845-9797.