MY LIFE AS A CAREGIVER, PART II

My boss told me the other day that he was proud of me. He complimented me on how I managed to pursue another graduate degree, work for two law practices and care for my mother. The “old” me would have luxuriated in the praise. The “new” me realizes that I am doing exactly what I ought to do. The “old” me would have said I achieved this juggling act in spite of being a caregiver. The “new” me realizes that I achieved this juggling act because I am a caregiver.

My professional career revolves around caring and protecting the elderly. I could not, in good conscience, not do the same for my mother. As I mentioned previously, I used to browbeat myself, wondering if I am doing this right and worrying whether she feels loved and wanted .

I would like to share with you what I have learned through this journey:

  • Do not get caught up on who is not pitching in to help. You will drive yourself to distraction and heartbreak. Stay focused on what you are providing for your loved one. Trust me, it is appreciated.
  • Allow yourself to have a moment. Believe it or not, it will pass. It takes too much energy to keep up a facade.
  • Tell yourself the truth about your situation. Making up a story to appease yourself is lying. Period.
  • People are always cautioning to ask for help. They may mean well, but unless they have a working knowledge of your daily interaction with your loved one, it can turn ugly. I experienced those who tried to help. Even though it “may” not have been intentional,  the “helpers” created a mess, leaving me to clean up the collateral damage  when they went home.
  • I have been fortunate enough to work from home. Please be clear; there will be a push back. You will have to make sacrifices. People will stop by  to “keep you company” knowing that you are home because you are working and you are not able leave your loved one alone. Note: As long as you are managing, those who promised to help, will not.
  • If someone offers you a few minutes to take a walk, take it. You will feel better and you will be able to exhale.
  • If you want to vent, vent to the social worker and the healthcare professionals your loved one sees. You will find that many people will not find talking about your challenges as a caregiver good conversation. I have had even family members cut the conversation short.
  • This may sound like shade, but I am going to say it. Unless one is in the trenches or can offer you insight from experience and/or training, their input is useless. You will be offended and may lose it.

I am not trying to scare anyone from being a caregiver. Personally, I have found it rewarding and I have grown personally and professionally. But that is my experience.  My dining room is now a bedroom for my mother with a hospital bed (see picture above).  I had to move her downstairs because of the stairs. Also, I now have alarms on my doors so that I can hear her when she decides to venture off or open a door when she has an episode.

I would have never imagined having a hospital bed and a commode in my home, let alone in my dining room. For many of us, this is our new normal. Be honest with yourself. If you do not feel that you can be a caregiver on a regular basis, please do not torture yourself. It is better that you tell the truth rather than to become resentful and then later abusive to your loved one.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

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WHEN THE ELDERLY CANNOT RECEIVE JUSTICE IN THE COURT SYSTEM

When one discovers that a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse, it breaks one’s heart and justice for that loved one becomes a priority.  What if you are a retired Los Angeles Police Captain, who co-founded the Elder Abuse Unit and was commanding officer of the Financial Crimes Division?  This is the story of retired LA Police Captain Glenn R. Ackerman.

He  discovered that his 82-year-old mother’s life savings, roughly about $150,000, had been stolen by a relative. My mother, Jonnye Ketchum, was left penniless, except for a $900 per month pension.  Her home, in Camarillo, California, was fully paid for.

He filed an elder abuse crime report with the Camarillo station of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, naming the relative as the suspect. The detective assigned to the case had no prior experience handling an elder abuse case and literally had no idea how to proceed.  Because of his background, he was able to provide assistance and brought in two expert detectives from his former unit to assist in the investigation.

Their tests and interviews of Mrs. Ketchum revealed that she was suffering from significant mental impairment and that the suspect had obtained her savings through an ongoing pattern of threats and browbeating; even as the investigation was being conducted, there was evidence that the suspect was helping herself to the bulk of Mrs. Ketchum’s pension. The suspect admitted to receiving large sums of money from Mrs. Ketchum, claiming that they were “gifts” and “loans.”

When the case was submitted to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for filing, it was rejected on the basis of a seemingly willful failure to understand the fundamental elder abuse concepts of diminished capacity and undue influence. In effect, Mrs. Ketchum was deemed competent to do whatever she wanted with her money (This is a common occurrence across the country in many District Attorney’s offices).

He realized, as a result of his experience and instincts, that the relative would probably go after the house.  He was right!  His mother called him explaining that the relative, using a power of attorney that she had coerced his mother into signing, was selling his mother’s house out from under her; his mother told him she loved her home and begged him to stop her from selling it.

He immediately filed an elder abuse crime report and retained an attorney. This matter lasted for several years.  The relative managed to have herself appointed conservator over his mother in order to sell the home because of her refusal.

When Captain Ackerman and his attorney found out about the home, it was already in escrow and they were unable to stop the sale.  The judge, however, did block the wire transfer of funds.  The funds were transferred to an account in Nevada. It was later revealed that the relative was a convicted felon.

The attorney and the detectives managed to collect evidence, medical and financial, clearly showing the relative’s guilt.  In court, the relative’s attorneys were able to convince the judge that the allegation were false.

The Ventura District Attorney’s office still rejected the case and the probate court judge’s final words were as follows, “But Mr. Hankin (Ackerman’s attorney), parents give their grown children large sums of money all the time. That doesn’t constitute a crime.”

Captain Ackerman’s story is tragic but true for many families who have tried to receive justice for their loved ones.  In fact, he said he felt that “it was as if, having saved what remained of Mrs. Ketchum’s estate and appointed an honest conservator, the courts decided that their responsibility had ended; no need to trouble themselves further.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities.  You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

REVERSE MORTGAGES

Many seniors have asked me to write about reverse mortgages. I was fortunate enough to have Liberty Home Equity Solutions give me some very important information. I am definitely not an authority on this topic so I thank Liberty for their help.

Reverse mortgages are a possible consideration for seniors who expect to live in their current homes for several years. Reverse mortgages are designed for homeowners age 62 and older. They are called “reverse”mortgages because the lender pays the homeowner.To qualify for this loan, the senior must live in the home as his/her primary residence. Reverse mortgages, unlike other mortgages, do not have income requirements. Making monthly payments are not required for as long as the borrower continues to live in the home.
There are two types of reverse mortgages:

  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM)—This program is offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is insured by the Federal Housing Administration. These are the most popular reverse mortgages, representing about 95% of the business.  The rates are fixed and adjustable.  There are two types of HECM reverse mortgages, the traditional HECM Standard loan, and the HECM Saver loan. HECM Purchase Loan.
  1. The HECM Saver is a lower cost alternative to the HECM Standard, which makes it more comparable to a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).  It is typically used for homeowners that do not want to access all the funds from their home’s equity and desire lower closing costs.
  2. HECM for Purchase Loan can help homeowners buy their next home without having to make monthly mortgage payments. This loan enables homeowners to use the equity from the sale of a previous residence to buy their next primary home in one transaction. Regardless of how long you live in the home or what happens to your home’s value, you only make one, initial investment (down payment) towards the purchase.
  • Proprietary reverse mortgages— These types of mortgages are offered by some banks, credit unions and mortgage companies for owners of homes with a high values.

Based on the specific type of mortgage, borrowers have the option to receive payments as a lump sum, line of credit, fixed monthly payment for a specific period or for as long as they live in their homes, or a combination of payment options. This money the senior receives is tax-exempt and can be used anyway the borrower chooses.  Here are some additional facts about reverse mortgages:

  • All homeowners must first meet with a HUD-approved reverse mortgage counselor before their loan application can be processed.
  • Homeowners may be required to make specific repairs to their home, which must first be covered by the cash available from a reverse mortgage. Required repairs are typically related to the structural soundness and safety of the home. Homeowners may also elect to make any other improvements and repairs they choose
  • Older borrowers may receive more money, because lenders include life expectancy in calculating loan payments
  • There is a national limit on the amount a senior can borrow under the HECM program.  This limit changes from year to year.

Like all financial decisions, there are some considerations the borrower will have to take into account:

  • The borrower may continue to own the home and can never be forced to leave,as long as the home is maintained and property taxes and
    insurance are paid.
  • If there is in an existing mortgage on the property, the amount received from the reverse mortgage is usually used to pay off the loan.  This can
    increase the cash the senior has available each month, because the senior no longer has to make payments on the regular mortgage.
  • The senior may use up a large part of your home equity over time and have
    less to leave as an inheritance to his/her family.
  • The senior may use up a large part of the home equity over time and have
    less to leave as an inheritance to his/her family.
  • Reverse mortgage borrowers must keep their home in good repair,
    and pay property taxes and homeowners insurance. If the borrower does not have enough money for these expenses, the borrower could face foreclosure and lose his/her home.

If you need additional information regarding reverse mortgages, you should contact HUD at http://www.hud.gov and Liberty Home Equity Solutions at http://www.LibertyHomeEquity.com.

Please remember that June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  As I always mention, please report any incidents of elder abuse to your local authorities. The website for the National Center for Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.

GRANNY SNATCHING

Growing old has become something to dread in our society.  The Bible celebrates the one with “gray hair”.  Unfortunately, many of our elderly are not treated with respect and honor.  Elder abuse, whether it is physical, emotional or financial, is the reality of many older persons.  Many older persons are at the mercy of loved ones or others to provide care for them. This, many times, is not the best arrangement for the older person.

As I mentioned last week, “granny snatching” is when a senior is moved from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction with laxer laws. Granny snatching laws vary drastically from state to state. This is another means to isolate the senior to be further exploited.  It is clear that there is a symbiotic relationship between guardianship issues and elder abuse

New Jersey and Pennsylvania have passed legislation preventing granny snatching. New York is currently awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature on the bill that passed the House and the Senate on May 6, 2013.  This legislation provides that the individual’s home state has primary jurisdiction, followed by the state where the individual has a significant connection.

A well-known case that was in the press involved Lillian Glasser, a multi-millionaire Highland Park widow who suffered from dementia and Parkinson’s. While Mrs. Glasser was visiting her daughter in Texas in 2005, the daughter applied for and was awarded guardianship. Relatives in New Jersey opposed the guardianship on the grounds that Mrs. Glasser was a New Jersey resident. The cost of the ensuing legal dispute was estimated at more than $1 million.

Eventually a court ruled that Mrs. Glasser should return to New Jersey where a new guardian was appointed who was not a member of the family.  New Brunswick attorney Joseph J. Catanese served as Glasser’s guardian from 2007 until her death September 2011 at the age of 91.  Mrs. Glasser had a vacation home in Boca Raton Florida and in 2009 she was relocated there permanently in Florida because of the weather. Attorney Catanese oversaw Glasser’s care by a staff that included a care manager, 24 hour nursing care and a live-in housekeeper. He was hands-on,  visiting her in Florida each month throughout his guardianship. He would have lunch or dinner with her, and then take her to doctor appointments, so he could hear first hand from the doctor what was going on.

A tragic case in Canada involved Kathleen Palamarek, an elderly widow and patient in the Broadmead Lodge nursing home in Saanich, a community in Greater Victoria on Vancouver Island, had to remain there indefinitely, after a Canadian judge ruled that institutional confinement superceded living with her family.

Mrs. Palamarek’s daughter, Lois Sampson, had spent three years trying to free her mother from Broadmead, to no avail. The ruling from B.C. Justice David Harris, coming more than two months after the end of a trial in which Mrs. Sampson brought in legal and medical experts who questioned the quality of Mrs. Palamarek’s care and the necessity of her continued residence at Broadmead apparently puts an end to the case.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Palamarek died on May 4, 2011.

There is currently a high-profile case of granny snatching in New Jersey involving 86-year-old Lisa McGraw Webster, heiress to a share of the McGraw-Hill publishing fortune.

Her son Curtis McGraw Webster says that his two half sisters have wrongly taken charge of their ailing mother, described as “an alleged incapacitated person,” and moved her away from Princeton to her vacation home in Idaho at the cost of her health and happiness to get better access to her $25 million fortune. His sisters in their deposition allege that they are following their mother’s wishes. Nearly a dozen lawyers in three states are involved.

I strongly recommend reading Ron Winter‘s book Granny Snatching, How a 92-Year-Old Widow Fought the Courts and Her Family to Win Her Freedom  This book tells the story of his mother’s fight for living her life on her terms.  I

This is a picture of Kathleen Palamarek.  This should serve as a constant reminder of the repercussions of not having “the conversation” regarding the future care of your aging loved ones.

Kathleen Palamarek 1922-2011

As always, please report incidents of elder abuse to the local authorities.  The National Center for Elder Abuse’s website is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE

I previously wrote about the financial exploitation of the elderly but I just wanted to review some things that are key to recognizing the signs.  I also wanted to mention prevention tips.

What is financial exploitation of the elderly or elder financial abuse? Simply put, it is when a person takes money or property from an elderly person for their own financial benefit. In the state of Florida, its law (FSS 825.103) “states that when someone maliciously takes the property of an “elderly person,” they are committing exploitation”.

It is estimated that five million elders may be the victims of financial exploitation annually. The perpetrators vary. Most of these incidents are by family members who are in daily contact with the victim and estranged family members who suddenly are interested in the victim’s well-being.

According to http://www.ncea.aoa.gov, “older individuals may be targeted merely because they possess more assets, such as savings, annuities and retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, insurance policies, and property than younger people. Those with cognitive impairments, mental health conditions, or physical disabilities may be dependent upon others (family members, friends, formal and informal caregivers, or court appointed representatives) for assistance in making financial decisions or carrying out daily transactions, and therefore may be even more vulnerable to theft, exploitation or undue influence.”

Here are some examples of elder financial exploitation:

  • Preventing the elder from having access to his/her money and bank accounts
  • Forging the elder’s signature on checks and other documents
  • Adding an additional name to the elder’s bank account and withdrawing funds without permission of the elder
  • theft of money or property
  • Theft of ATM cards or credit cards
  • Deceiving or forcing an elder to sign a financial document, such as a will, a loan application or some other documents Selling an elder unnecessary or overpriced goods or services
  • Stealing an elder’s identity or financial data in order to steal the elder’s money or property
  • Deceiving an elder to invest in an overpriced scam
  • Deceiving an elder into borrowing money on a home with terms that guarantee he or she will default and lose equity
  • Improperly using an elder’s power of attorney or conservatorship.
  • Cashing checks without permission
  • There are also other signs as well such as bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder’s home, unpaid bills, notices to discontinue utilities or eviction notices, unusual activity in the older person’s bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals, absence of proof about financial arrangements and outrageous explanations given about the elderly person’s finances by the caregiver.

It is important to remember that whenever there is an economic downturn, seniors are always the first to be targeted.  Here are some tips to protect the seniors’ assets:

  • Stay connected. People who live alone and in isolation are most likely to be victims Put your financial affairs in order. Financial good housekeeping will make you less vulnerable
  • Beware of needy people. People with histories of substance abuse are most likely to be abusers
  • Choose caregivers and other service people carefully. Don’t allow people into your house who aren’t trustworthy
  • Keep valuables in a safe place. If there’s nothing worth stealing in your home, you’re less likely to become a victim.
  • Sharing the same DNA does not guarantee that relatives will not swindle one out of money or real estate.
  • Make sure that your power of attorney documents are on file with the bank and/or investment company
  • When receiving a phone call from someone you are not familiar with, exercise caution.

There is another issue in regards to elder abuse that is seldom discussed.  Granny snatching is when a senior is moved from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction with laxer laws. Granny snatching laws vary drastically from state to state. This is another means to isolate the senior from loved ones to be further exploited. I will go into further detail next week about what some states are doing to protect seniors from this heinous act.

As always, report any incidents of elder abuse to the local authorities.  The website for the National Center for Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse is preventelderabuse.org.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.

THE DANGERS FACED BY THE ELDERLY WHEN SELECTING A POWER OF ATTORNEY

In the Bible, it mentions that the aging King David was in jeopardy of losing his kingdom to his son, Absalom.  Divine intervention saved King David’s kingdom and his son Absalom later died in an accident.  I thought about how powerless David must have felt. In fact, the Bible said that David felt humiliated. Remember, this was the same David, who in his youth, slayed the giant Goliath with his slingshot.

That feeling must be true for many of our elderly who are not their former selves and hoping that their loved ones will treat them with love and not taking advantage of them. This is why choosing someone to serve as your power of attorney is something that requires careful consideration and not sentimentality.  Many seniors are victims because of making decisions based on emotions rather than sheer logic and common sense.

There many cases of power of attorney scams. In Ohio, an elderly retired gentleman, lived alone with no immediate family. One day he suffered an injury that required his hospitalization. He knew he would be away from home for weeks and was worried about paying his bills. His nephew arrived at the hospital with flowers and an offer to help.  The next day the nephew showed up with a power of attorney, which his uncle signed. By the time the elderly man had returned home, his nephew had robbed him blind, using the power of attorney to close bank and investment accounts. Assuring his uncle he was merely keeping the money safe, the nephew had instead transferred the money to an accomplice, who in turn invested it in a mobile home development in South Carolina. When the uncle sued, the nephew maintained that his uncle had gifted him the money out of love and affection, and the power of attorney was evidence of the trust his uncle placed in him.

Another case occurred in Battle Creek, Michigan. A 92-year-old woman in Battle Creek says a neighbor she trusted has taken everything from her. Clint Stout was charged with embezzlement, but a Calhoun County judge says the man hasn’t done anything criminal. Clint Stout is charged with embezzlement over $20,000. This, by all accounts, started in March 2010 just after the death of Elizabeth Armour’s husband. The Stouts were given power of attorney and they apparently took advantage of the power in short order. Armour was moved out of her home the day after her husband’s funeral, and into a series of retirement homes. A police investigation turned up tens of thousands of dollars of questionable transactions and withdrawals from Armour’s account–including $3,600 marked as “Cash for Elizabeth,” which Armour told detectives she never received. Additionally, $17,000 that Clint Stout placed into a personal bank account, even though the power of attorney clearly states Armour’s funds “must never be mixed with your own.” When asked about the withdrawals, the detective says Stout “could not provide me with any reasonable explanation,” and said he wished to speak with an attorney. This is the part of the story is tragic. The judge who heard the case wrote in his finding that “the court is not persuaded the actions of the defendant are criminal. Unless prosecution can show the power of attorney was obtained through some fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” The judge cited one line in the power of attorney which reads “under no circumstances should my agents actions give rise to a criminal charge,

When you designate someone as your agent, the agent can handle financial and legal matters on your behalf in the event that you become physically or mentally incapacitated. This is why you have choose carefully because your agent will able handling many financial responsibilities.

If your spouse or partner is in very good health, you can designate him/her.  When choosing a close relative, make sure that this person is responsible with his/her financial matters.

It is important that if you choose a close relative who is living with you and you are living with another relative, please make sure you file your documents with your bank and/or broker.  Having a power of attorney is not useful if the bank or broker does not  know about.

You should also be aware that you have the right to revoke your document anytime you choose.  You should can also limit the responsibilities of your agent if you do not feel comfortable about some matters.

You should definitely seek an attorney who specializes is elder and estate law matters.  if you cannot find an attorney, contact the local bar association in your area and inquire about speaking to an elder and estate law attorney.

As always, please report any incidents of elder abuse to the local authorities.  The website for the National Center on Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.

HOW PAYDAY LOANS LENDERS ARE PREYING ON THE ELDERLY

My sister, who works as a supervisor in a public library, recently told me that several older adults came into her branch having major questions about payday loans. One woman said that she applied for a payday loan and was denied. She later went on to say the company is deducting money from her checking account despite not receiving a loan.

Recent studies have shown that one out of four payday borrowers are Social Security recipients. Don Baylor Jr., senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for the interests of low and moderate-income Texans said that many seniors are using payday loans as a means to bail out family members. This is because payday lenders know that Social Security recipients have a guaranteed monthly income. Also, payday lenders recognize that older homeowners tend to have higher home equity. Targeting the elderly allows the lenders to easily drain the equity from a borrower’s home by including excessive fees and lending under unfair terms. They will encourage the borrower to refinance their loans which benefits the lender, not the borrower.

Alabama seniors have been hit hard by payday lenders.  One senior, Mr. Bevels, who is illiterate, had the clerk from Small Loans, owned by Money Tree, Inc. help him complete the application for a payday loan. His check was being deposited into a out-of-state bank. He was given a $200.00 loan. Small Loans then started taking his benefits check and paid him a small allowance out of it, deducting the money to repay the loan. The company took thousands of dollars from him over the years. Nearly four years, Mr. Bevels rode his motorized mobility scooter to Small Loans to pick up his allowance, which was sometimes as little as $180 a month. He eventually became homeless after his trailer burnt down.

This story has a happy ending. A county social worker arranged for Mr. Bevels to move to public housing and got his Social Security benefits redirected to a local bank. When Small Loans sued Mr. Bevels for repayment in small-claims court in Talladega County, Ala., a legal-aid attorney headed to court. The judge threw out the case when the lender failed to appear with documentation for the loan.

There are many tales of seniors and disabled Social Security recipients going to Small Loans to pick up their allowances from their checks. Many researchers found that because many recipients did not initially have traditional bank accounts, this form of direct deposit appeared to be a viable option.

Small Loans is not the only company preying on the elderly and disabled. Check ‘n Go, held by Ohio-based CNG Holdings Inc., which has more than 1,300 stores nationwide, had the manager of one on its Washington, DC location recruiting elderly customers. This particular location was across the street from a retirement complex. The manager often ate his lunch on nearby benches to strike up conversations with the complex’s residents. He later quit because he did not want to exploit the elderly.

Payday lending is an increasing growing business and as a result, many consumers, young and old, are sinking into deeper debt.  Banking regulators must find a way to regulate these lenders and protect the consumers, especially the elderly and disabled.

As always, I encourage you to report any concerns regarding elder abuse to the proper authorities.  I have attached the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website below.  Please feel free to leave your comments or questions.

http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/