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What To Do When Your Aging Parent Is No Longer Safe Living Alone But Refuses To Move

Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com

“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 emergency. 

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 still driving.

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.

The takeaways from AgingParents.com:

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.

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Aging Parents by Carolyn Rosenblatt - 1M ago

Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com

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.”

Emotional 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.

How 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.

  1. First, 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 them.
  2. If 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.
  3. 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 fraudsters.

If you are having difficulty with an aging parent and need expert advice, get it at AgingParents.com so you can manage with less stress. We offer professional consultations, in addition to free resources such as blogs, YouTube videos, and books/eBooks.

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Elderly lady talking on a mobile phone to a financial scammer

By AgingParents.com©2019

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

When 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.

1. Investigate.

2. Ask questions.

3. Go see for yourself.

4. Confer with other family about your concerns.

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.

7. Consult an elder law attorney.

8. Fight back: you are not powerless!

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Aging Parents by Carolyn Rosenblatt - 2M ago

By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, AgingParents.com

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.

My 30-something 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.

Another driver 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.

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Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com

This is a real scam !

Scams 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 the “fee”.

Even if 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 read it.

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!

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Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney, AgingParents.com

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 act.

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 aggravation.

Find us here.

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Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney

Alice Davis 96 years

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 exit. Share your experiences with us at AgingParents.com. We would like to hear from you about your own aging loved ones.

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