Elder Exploitation

Protecting the Elderly From Financial Exploitation

Oklahoma has strong laws in effect to protect our elderly citizens from financial exploitation.  Unfortunately, though, the problem is enforcing those actions.  Let me explain the challenge.

Assume for a moment that a caregiver is exploiting money from an elderly person. A friend or family member shows up later and hears about all this money that the caregiver is receiving. While they may suspect exploitation, they may not want to get involved. If they do want to get involved, though, the elderly person is most likely to say she can afford it, the caregiver needs the money or the she wants to help this caregiver who has been so kind to her.

Put yourself in the position of the prosecutor of this action. Your best witness is the bank, the friend or family member, and the record of all the money received by the caregiver. In contrast, the caregiver will give a compelling explanation that the elderly person had no friends but her. The caregiver was the friend when no one else came around. Their best witness, though, will be the elderly person. Imagine a frail older person taking the stand and telling the judge and jury that they can’t take care of their finances and that they have been exploited for some time and for most of their money.

That’s why we don’t see many criminal prosecutions for elder exploitation. While the law changes a little, the idea of setting up a guardianship for the elderly person in order to sue the caregiver on their behalf presents similar problems.  After the elderly person passes, it becomes more difficult for their estate.

The way to address this is through estate planning. Before you need a full or part-time caregiver, plan whether you are going into a retirement center, nursing home or if you plan on living out your life in your home. Consider who is going to watch over your assets to make sure you have all the money possible to last throughout your old age. A trust or some other way can always been developed to protect us from this kind of problem.  It requires, though, that we plan for it.   

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