Welcome Wisdom

The Vulnerability of Aging without Support

by Gail Arno, CMC, ECM Director of Care Management

Aging can be a daunting effort and isn’t always easy for many of us, even those with supportive family members and friends, or those who have done their planning for the future and have set a course for a successful retirement and beyond. There are many people who are aging without support and are void of a safety net of friends, children, relatives, and decision-makers in their lives. How do they successfully traverse the many challenges of aging and not end up vulnerable and taken advantage of in emotional, physical, and fiscal ways?

Too often as Care Managers, we walk into scenarios that expose the most vulnerable seniors. It is our task to support the client, untangle the mess they are in the midst of, knowingly and unknowingly, and begin the process of making their lives safer and more fulfilled. One such example can be found in our client, Betty Jean*. Never married, a professor of economics, no children, no spouse or partner, no immediate family members within a 500+ mile radius, and a number of medical issues beginning to surface with some mild cognitive concerns as well. Betty Jean agreed to well-intended family member pressure to have a caregiver come into her home a few days a week and help her with household chores and to provide companionship as her friends had fallen off with their own lives and she was finding herself more alone and more confused about things that previously came so easily to her.

Things seemed fairly smooth for a while and then some issues began to surface. A bank teller reported Betty Jean and her caregiver to Adult Protective Services (APS) as the caregiver was bringing Betty Jean in numerous times a week, making large cash withdrawals. Betty Jean became more and more silent with each transaction and the tellers and executives at the bank became more and more concerned with each withdrawal. Adult Protective Services made a home visit, found a pleasant and very engaged (in hindsight, too engaged) caregiver at the home who spoke for Betty Jean and assured them that things were fine. On the surface, things appeared acceptable and APS went away, seemingly satisfied. More trips to the bank occurred and soon it was just the caregiver coming in alone. No Betty Jean, and now along with withdrawals, there were requests to change documents, add names to accounts, and transfers of money. Adult Protective Services was notified again and another visit was made. This time it was clear that the caregiver had taken a role not only as Betty Jean’s companion but had inserted herself in her financial world as well. Things were about to unfold and were far more complicated than imagined but thankfully with the help of the court system, legal intervention, and the wise and tender support of Elder Care Management, Betty Jean would come through this experience safely and mostly unscathed. Next month we will share another story of elder vulnerability, the entanglements of a senior’s life being taken over by a less than caring, very self-seeking, and unscrupulous caregiver who nearly got away with her devious efforts.

*names have been changed to protect the clients’ identity