Discovering Eldercare Fraud

Anyone may become an accidental caregiver. The point is, it happens while you are making other plans.

This situation started in early April, when my husband and I drove to Bangor at the request of one of my sister’s daughters who lives out-of-state. She had received a text from her sister in Bangor that the furnace in their mobile home had quit and that a large sum of money was needed immediately to replace it. So when we drove up to Bangor to check on the situation, we were concerned about hypothermia if the furnace was not working. When we arrived we discovered my sister was fine, the mobile home was warm, and the furnace was working. So this turned out to be a scam to try to extort money from a sister.

This was also the day I learned how lost in dementia my sister really is. Before she retired my sister had made very good decisions and put into place such things as a will and advanced care directives. She had purchased long-term care insurance and burial insurance. But that was maybe twenty years ago. What I discovered this day was the total chaos that she and my niece were living in. She had very little paperwork concerning her affairs because she had been scattering them and her daughter had been hiding or destroying them. My sister had no recollection of where she had put things, plus she has aphasia, which means she can’t get the words out to say what she wants you to know.

We came back a week later with a Durable Power of Attorney document and we went to her bank to see what was going on. The woman who assisted us brought up the checking account and began to gasp. What she saw was that the account had been bled down by over $20,000 through the use of my sister’s ATM and debit card. This happened over a short period of time by using the debit card at WalMart and Hannaford for amounts way over what my sister would ever have spent at one time. There were also checks that were forged with my sister’s signature. The bank immediately closed the vulnerable account and opened another one for her, adding me to the account. I was stunned when my sister was asked to sign a document and she didn’t know how to spell her name and write it! I spelled it for her and she wrote it with great difficulty. We then realized it would no longer be safe for my sister to remain living with her daughter. There was no immediate safe place to leave her. I asked her if she would feel safe continuing to live in her home with her daughter. She had tears in her eyes as she said “I want to go live with you”. I looked at my husband, who I nominate for sainthood, and he nodded. The only alternative was to bring her home with us.

We went back to the mobile home she shared with her daughter and gathered up her clothes and personal toiletries, using her luggage and the cloth grocery bags I keep in our car. I located her weekly pill dispenser and what prescription bottles had her name on them. Her daughter protested that I couldn’t take her mother because she had the health care power of attorney and I told her my Durable Power of Attorney over-ruled the one she had. We stopped at the medical practice my sister used and they copied my Durable Power of Attorney and handed me a form to fill out for the release of her medical records.

We have a large, ten room house but the room set up for guests hadn’t been used for so long that it had become the overflow room for things that couldn’t be put in the attic. We cleared space enough for her to use the bed and, over the next few days, made it a personal space just for her.

Harriet Vaughan

About Harriet Vaughan

I am a Senior Move Manager, working with Senior Citizens and their families when it is time to downsize or just make the home safer and more comfortable for aging in place. I help these people make decisions about what to keep, throw out, donate, or sell. I also offer workshops on "Getting Things Done When You Are Over 60". I write about how to overcome memory lapses and how to use your physical energy well. I have a degree in Home Economics from the University of Maine. I live in Coopers Mills, about 14 miles east of Augusta. I have been married for almost 50 years to my husband, Chuck Vaughan. Our business is called Legacy Years Transition Services.