AgingParents.com provides coaching and consulting programs for those who are having difficulty with aging loved ones or clients. We address issues about loss of financial capacity, family conflicts and other matters of aging. We serve financial service professionals, families, caregivers and those in the elder services industry.
“My mom is not safe by herself but she refuses help!”
“My dad can’t manage alone anymore but he won’t go to assisted
living”. Here at AgingParents.com where we consult with families, we hear
these complaints. The issue the adult children see is stubbornness. The
aging parents see the family as intruding, and having no business telling them
what to do. Families are worried. We help them understand that legally, as long
as the elder is competent to make decisions, even unsafe ones, there is no way
to force them to move anywhere.
Having experienced this personally with my then 90 year old
mother in law, Alice, I know how frustrating it can be to try to persuade a
reluctant elder to make a life change like giving up their home. Alice was
widowed at 86, after 63 years of marriage. She had always been relatively
healthy and very independent in many things. But she was slowing down
physically in many areas and that was what we worried about. She was at least
two hours away from any family and many of her local friends were also slowing
down. It was uncomfortable for us to think of her being alone in case of
Despite a couple of medical scares which she survived, she
continued to refuse the idea of moving closer to any family member. She lived
alone at 90, still drove a car and was able to keep her doctor’s appointments,
social activities and exercise routine going. We repeatedly brought up the
subject of giving up managing a house and how much easier it would be. We took
her to assisted living facilities, we introduced her to friendly people there
and described all the logical reasons why it would make sense to move. Nothing
doing. Logic has nothing to do with the fear of losing one’s independence. She
was set in her ways and she told us she would let us know when or if she
felt like moving.
Her first concession was to give up the big house she and her
husband had shared for many years in a pleasant seniors’ development with
seemingly endless activities and opportunities to socialize. When she agreed to
sell it, we thought this was the opportune time to get her into a seniors’
apartment. But no. Instead, she chose to rent a smaller house in the same
neighborhood. The benefit was that she got rid of truckloads of stuff she no
longer needed. She now had cash to pay for care if she chose that. But she also
decided she didn’t need care nor help. No helper was going to live in the spare
bedroom, thank you. “I want my privacy!” she said vehemently. We had
to be patient.
She had arthritis, vision issues, hearing loss, leg pain, kidney
and bladder trouble, unstable blood pressure and took 14 pills every day. You’d
think that would be enough to persuade someone to accept help, right? Nope, no
way. We gently brought up over and over again that we were worried about her
living by herself. She was dismissive every time. We got ever more concerned
about her by the time she was age 92, still living alone, worse vision and
Finally, one day out of the blue, she called my husband and
said, “OK, I’m ready”. He asked her what she was ready for and she
said “to move to a seniors’ apartment”. He nearly dropped the phone! He asked
her what had brought her to the decision. She replied that she was trying to
change a light bulb and with the arthritis in her hands she couldn’t do it, so
she decided she had had enough of struggling. We were shocked and relieved at
the same time. We sprang into action before she could change her mind and got
her set up in an seniors’ apartment close to her daughter. She made that choice
of which one. She was able to maintain her sense of independence, despite
missing her prior home. Ultimately she admitted that she did have everything
she needed in daily life and it was good that she could call the front desk if
the garbage disposal got stuck or if a light bulb needed changing. To see a
short video, Alice’s perspective of her decision. Click HERE.
Alice made a life there for the next three years until her last
days. She slowly adapted to community living and joined many of the available
activities. There were plenty of complaints but basically help was on hand when
she needed it.
Alice’s transition out of her home was not because of our
urging, though having shown her around some seniors’ communities two years
earlier did prepare her and help her with the decision. She made the move in
her own good time. Fortunately, it was not thrust upon her by a fall or other
sudden medical change. She felt in control over her decision and that was the
most important thing we could give her.
If your aging parent needs to give up living alone, he or she
needs to feel a sense of control over the decision–you can’t force it.
Gentle persuasion works better than any argument.
Fear of losing independence is almost universal. It can
masquerade as stubbornness.
Patience can pay off.
Aging parents can present many
difficult challenges. If you are feeling frustrated and worried, reach out to
us at AgingParents.com for professional advice to solve your worries. We offer
a wealth of advice from our nurse-lawyer, psychologist team in The Family Guide
to Aging Parents, a book that will surely benefit you. Get your copy today in
print or digital format (audio too!) by clicking HERE.
We live in a county with a high number of older residents. A
neighbor recently alerted all in our area to yet another scam she had
encountered, targeting the unsuspecting. Here’s how it works:
The scammer makes a threatening phone call to a normal
utility customer, posing as a representative of the local utility company. The
caller tells the person that their electricity will be cut off shortly for
failure to pay a bill. They leave a number to call back. The person calls the
number which is answered with the utility company name, and music while on
hold. The scammer then gets on the line, demands immediate payment, saying that
the truck is on the way to cut off the electrical power to the person’s home.
They ask for personal information, intimidating the person into giving it to
them and insists that the only way to stop the truck is by express payment now.
People can be easily fooled by this, as it sounds
legitimate. Here is how the neighbor described her take on this:
“I feel particularly bad
for older folks who can easily be manipulated into providing sensitive
information. The perps have not a shred of conscience and will say whatever it
takes. Please alert your friends, especially older folks, that the callers are
very convincing and they use psychological manipulation to weaken your stance;
even so much as to humiliate or chasten you for the fictional accusation.”
manipulation is how the scammers succeed.
They create fear. They threaten. They take advantage of the person’s
discomfort with the idea of having electricity cut off. They create doubt, even
when a person knows the bill is paid or even paid by auto debit.
can you protect your aging parents from becoming victimized? AgingParents.com, where we consult with
families who have aging loved ones, we make three recommendations.
let your loved ones know about the scam
and to be on the alert for it. If your aging parents are clear-minded, that can
help. Tell them this story and how scary it was for the person getting the
threatening call. But many elders are forgetful, or have signs of early
dementia. They can be manipulated easily no matter how much you try to educate
your aging parent has memory loss, offer to take over payment of monthly
recurring bills such as the utility bill. Set
up accounts online for you to oversee payment of all of these bills. You
can track them, ensure that no bills are delinquent, and monitor spending.
Removing access to bill payment can help you stop scammers cold. Your parent
will know that the bills are your department and can tell the fake utility
scammer to call you.
Understand that scammers are
everywhere looking for older people to rip off. They are clever, sneaky and
have devised ways to make themselves look legit. Even if your aging parent is
perfectly competent mentally, he or she can still be bullied by a professional
thief. Look over your parent’s shoulder
with finances to do everything possible to protect them from these evil
With people living longer and
many elders developing dementia, the prevalence of elder abuse is becoming more
visible than ever. Cognitive decline and financial abuse can go together,
because impaired elders are so vulnerable.
Families need to know the warning signs so they can take action before
it’s too late.
Here are some common warning
signs of potential or actual financial abuse you may spot with an aging loved
one. Take them seriously:
Isolation of the elder by a family member, caregiver or other who may be
motivated to take money from them.
Access to the elder is blocked unless the suspected abuser is present.
Abrupt, unexplained changes to estate documents, such as Durable Power of Attorney, will or trust.
This may come as a result of manipulation of the elder by an abuser.
Sudden change of address without explanation or apparent need. An abuser may
have gotten control over an elder’s residence and sold it or moved the elder to
an unknown location.
Inability to contact the elder by phone, mail or email.
An abusive person can cut off contact
with concerned family or others, so as to keep the financial abuse secret.
Appearance of a new “friend” in the elder’s life, causing concern about the
“friend’s” sudden interest in the elder’s finances. This can be a caregiver,
distant relative, romantic interest or other who is in position to manipulate
the elder into giving him or her money.
Addiction to a relationship on the internet. This is particularly dangerous for elders who are
lonely and live alone but it can happen to anyone. The elder is contacted by a
scammer daily or multiple times a day, all for the purpose of taking the
elder’s money. The elder enjoys the contact and has no suspicions about it.
Unusual account withdrawals or changes in spending habits. A normally
frugal person sends money to strangers, questionable causes, or fake
“charities” without regard to whether he or she can afford this.
Requests of the elder to borrow money from you. This can indicate that a scammer has wiped out a
bank account or otherwise caused the elder to run out of funds.
The elder admits to credit cards being maxed out. This can also indicate that someone has persuaded
the elder to give access to credit cards to an unscrupulous person or abuser
known to the elder, such as a family member.
The elder reveals odd-sounding plans for travel with a
suspicious person. This can be a
manipulator’s tactic for having a great time at the elder’s expense. Cruises,
trips abroad and any arduous travel unsuitable for the elder should raise
suspicions about manipulation by another.
you see any of these warning signs it is important to delve into what you see
right away. Here are eight actions you can and should take.
2. Ask questions.
3. Go see for yourself.
4. Confer with other family about your
5. Get online access to your loved one’s
bank accounts and monitor activity daily.
6. Confront the suspicious person and
let him or her know that you are watching.
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by
2060, nearly twenty-five percent of Americans will be age 65 and above.
At the same point, the number of people age 85 and older will triple. What will
they all be doing in those long retirement years? Will our aging parents have
enough to keep them occupied?
Many who have
not saved enough to simply retire and not work at all find jobs. The
stereotypical image of an elder serving fast food will be extended by seeing
elders in many other kinds of work. For some of these folks over 65, long
stretches without structure lead to isolation, boredom and even to depression.
Retirees may want the double benefit of bringing in money while finding ways to
be with others.
daughter is a regular Uber user who likes to converse with her drivers in San Francisco.
She reports that three of her drivers in past two weeks were over age 65.
One was age 80. He told her that he had retired from a union job at age 65. His
wife had passed away and he got withdrawn and bored, having no sense of
purpose. He worked part-time as a warehouse floor worker and cashier. He liked
the walking and being around people. He worked another few days a week driving
which he enjoyed because it kept him sharp, using the app, navigating around
the city, keeping track of the best ways to get places, and most importantly,
he liked chatting with his passengers.
she met was a musician, age 70. He said he liked driving because he enjoyed
hearing people’s stories and he like helping get them where they needed to go.
A third older driver told her she liked challenging herself with the
assignments. She spoke about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was
widowed and needed the income. She commented that driving for both Uber and
Lyft kept her from being homeless.
Do these older
workers give us a preview of what our future society will look like? It seems
likely. Our numbers tell the story. We are not producing enough younger workers
to fill the jobs that exist now and jobs that will continue to grow in the
future. Longevity creates a pool of older workers available either part-time or
full-time, not necessarily expecting a benefits package and having no lofty
career aspirations. They just want the stimulation, structure and expectations
of relating to others that come with having a job. Our entire society can
certainly benefit from this win-win.
Will our aging
parents be among the workforce of elders? Perhaps. It depends on whether they
see themselves as needing to work for any reason. Sometimes money is not the
motivator. Rather, it is to prevent social isolation and to feel useful in some
way. For others, like the older woman who said driving prevented homelessness,
income is the major motivator. For those who are too proud to depend entirely
on younger family members to support them, and for those whose families are
unable to provide support, work offers a sense of personal accomplishment.
All of the workers described here were physically and mentally
capable of doing work. Not all retirees fit into that category. When one’s
financial situation is comfortable and there is no need to create income,
volunteer work can meet the same need for connections with others that a
part-time paid job can do. There is a greater variety of volunteer
opportunities in a broad range of fields than paying jobs in those same fields.
For example, an art lover can be a volunteer docent at a local museum much more
readily rather than trying to find paid work as an artist. Networks like volunteermatch.com help interested people find
connections to opportunities in their communities, nationwide. With long life
in retirement, there are risks of becoming too cut off from others and boredom
with nothing to do outside one’s home.
When your older parent has nothing to do, it will affect both you and your parent. Complaints mount. Physical effects seem to go along with lack of structure in their lives. Demands on you to fill their social needs can be burdensome. They need to find ways to meet their own social needs outside what you can offer. Helping your aging parent find and maintain purpose can work for both of you. Stuck with a stubborn aging parent who won’t listen? Get a worthwhile consultation to help untangle the problems with us at AgingParents.com. Sign up for two one-hour sessions and get relief. Professional advice can make all the difference.
targeting our aging loved ones never seem to stop. Thieves can fool the
recipient of a call by showing a “real” number on caller ID with
spoofing computer software. That’s a tactic to intimidate your aging parent. The
evil caller has your aging parent’s telephone number and knows your parent to
be at least of Social Security age. The parent checks and sure enough, it’s
Social Security calling. The caller immediately tells the elder in an
authoritative voice that her Social Security number has been blocked. Of course
this draws the expected reaction from most people–fear. They are not going to
question what it means to have the SS number “blocked” or if that is
even possible. (It isn’t.)
The caller says it is urgent and that in order to
“reactivate” the SS number, the elder must act immediately, or their
Social Security benefits will be affected. Many aging parents depend on Social
Security as part or all of what they live on and they imagine not receiving
their payments. The scammer convincingly fakes concern and wants to
“help”. All your aging parent has to do is pay a fee and the number
will be unblocked, they’re told. Many elders have heard of identity theft and
believe that this person is going to help them prevent unauthorized use of
their SS number, because that is what they hear on the call. Of course the
caller then needs to “verify” the number and your aging loved one
complies and recites the number. Instantly the number can be put into use any
number of ways identify thieves have devised. And worse yet the elder pays them
you believe with all your heart that YOUR aging loved one is not dumb and won’t
fall for any of this, do not be so sure. Anyone can be caught off guard.
Scammers are very clever at using fear and other strong emotions to manipulate
unsuspecting aging parents to give up information without thinking about
whether the request for it makes sense. You want to warn them. You want to
remind them that they are never to give out any personal information like a SS
number to a person they did not call themselves. Everyone’s Social Security
numbers are potentially floating around in cyberspace enough as it is, without
handing them to a telephone stranger who is lying to get them to pay
money. You can warn your aging parents that the Social Security Administration
will never ever call and ask anyone to verify the SS number. You can remind
them that even if the caller ID shows something that looks real, it can be fake
because spoofing software can show anything the scammers want it to show.
Millions of elders are approached regularly by this telephone
scam and many others. My own mother in law, now passed, was very smart at
fending off such phony calls and smelling a scam. But by age 95, that scam
sensor she used to have seemed to fade. One day a man called her landline and
said he was from Medicare. He just wanted to “confirm her Medicare number”.
She had an active Medicare claim going on at the time, and we were helping her
address the details. Because she had that claim, she fell for the trick. She
gave the caller her full name, address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name,
and her Social Security number. Fortunately we found out within a day and were
able to jump into action to change all her accounts and credit cards. It took
four months to straighten out the mess. The scammers got nothing. We got a lot
of work, and had to take her to her banks and financial institutions in person
to change everything. She felt bad because she was supposed to know better.
Yes, but she forgot. We were lucky to find out before anything worse happened.
The takeaway here is that no one is immune from being tricked.
With advanced age, your loved one might fall into a trap and give out
information they should never give. Adult children need to stay in frequent
contact and offer frequent warnings about the latest scams to even your very
intelligent aging parents. Coming from you, a reminder can be more convincing
than a public authority putting news of a scam out in hopes that elders will
If your aging parent is creating problems for you, such as
dementia, the need for care and resistance to your help, call us for a
consultation at AgingParents.com. We’re here to consult with you so you can solve these problems!
Banks and the government
collect data on financial elder abuse. No matter how much data the government
collects, the problem does not seem to be getting better by any measure. The
Office of Financial Protection For Older Americans documents that banks and
other institutions filings of “suspicious
activity reports” quadrupled between 2013 and 2017. Elders among us
are being victimized by predators of all stripes. Collecting data is not going
to fix this issue of financial abuse. But it can be stopped by those willing to
We see it here at AgingParents.com where one sibling contacts
us about another sibling using undue influence to take advantage of a
grandparent or aging parent. Sometimes an adult child calls us in alarm, as he
has just discovered that mom is falling under the spell of a telephone scammer.
In other cases, the elder owns real estate and is no longer able to manage it,
and tenants are not paying rent or are trashing the property without
consequences. Like banks and institutions, they see but do not take much
action. Most banks do not even report the situation to authorities, namely
Adult Protective Services (APS). Just seeing a problem is not enough to solve
any part of it. Families, unlike banks, do have the power to act quickly. The
family has its own hesitation, fear of the need to confront the parent, sibling
or other abuser or simply not knowing what to do.
If anyone wants to
prevent abuse, the family, the close friend or watchful concerned person in the
elder’s life must step in when something doesn’t look right. People close to the aging parent can ask questions, seek legal
advice or collect data so that APS has something to work with in stopping a
predator. For example, if your parent owns rental properties and he has memory
loss and can’t keep track of his own bills every month, that should be notice
to you that he can’t manage his real estate either. The family can make best
efforts to persuade your aging parent to resign from the position of power, get
used to the idea of a professional property manager, and offer to help out yourselves.
Better that than waiting until a tenant hasn’t paid rent for a year and has all
sorts of bad things happening in the property.
And what if your particularly
difficult aging parent with dementia refuses all help? She thinks there is
nothing wrong with her. She won’t listen to reason. It is painful to realize
that the parent who was well educated and used to be so capable is now
impaired. I hear adult children tell me “she was so smart, she was a
professor” or “he was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company” and
“how could this happen?” This is when professional advice at AgingParents.com can help. We can walk the family through the best strategy for
the conversations about approaching your loved one about giving up power. When
that fails, we go over the legal documents your aging parents have to see what
provisions exist for removing them from being in charge of their finances.
Many courageous adult
children we meet are finding that their loved ones need help and are being
manipulated. They confront the problem and succeed in getting the money out of
the parents’ hands so that they are safe from predators and scammers. In the
end, they benefit personally when their inheritance is not destroyed.
When you find yourself
stuck with no idea what to do next with your problematic aging loved one, you
can sign up for a two hour consultation with us, to be used in a couple of one
hour conversations and strategy sessions. We can save you time, money and
Death and dying are almost taboo to talk about. Since most
folks avoid this topic altogether, we at AgingParents.com thought it
deserved some attention. We personally had to face a conversation about it
during the last part of my mother-in-law, Alice’s life. She was 96, had
pneumonia and advanced kidney failure and was in the hospital. Things were not
going well there and she knew it.
I had been with her every day, attending to small things,
advocating for staff to remember her hearing aids, glasses and dentures in the
morning. She was not in pain, but everything was a struggle.
As I sat quietly near her bed one afternoon, she woke up and
asked, “Carolyn, am I dying?” I was very glad for my nursing experience at that
moment! I said “Mom, the part of you that is capable of receiving love is doing
very well right now. Your body, not so much. How do you feel about it?” She
said she was scared. We discussed that she was with those of us in her family
who loved her and we would be with her all the time, no matter what. I shared
with her some things about people’s near-death experiences which they’d written
about after coming back. Going to the light, being reunited with loved ones,
and the overwhelming feeling of being fully embraced by a loving presence were
some of those experiences others had described. She took this in and agreed
that it didn’t sound so scary.
While she was in the hospital I asked her if she would say a
“mantra” for me when we arrived each day. She said she would. The mantra was “I
am loved”. She always remembered it and I asked her every day, “What’s the
mantra, Mom?” She came up with it in a clear voice every time.
As the week wore on and it became obvious that the end was
close, we asked for Hospice. The hospice representative came within an hour and
we arranged for her to be discharged so she could spend her last days in her
own bed in her own apartment. There was a bit of scrambling by the company, as
this was on the weekend, but it got done. Medicare pays for hospice, on the
MD’s order and also covers all equipment needed at home at that point.
Alice passed peacefully several days later in her own bed,
held by her daughter and granddaughter. The last private conversation I had
with her was to say that when she felt ready, she could let go, it was okay. We
loved her and would miss her and we knew her time was coming. Surprisingly, she
had the presence of mind to thank me for all I had done in being with her. I
asked her to say the mantra one more time. “I am loved” she said. And those
were our last words together. I believe she was at peace and we were too. She
was conscious and could hear and feel caring all around her. Not a bad way to
your experiences with us at AgingParents.com. We would like
to hear from you about your own aging loved ones.