A Different Degree of Elder Abuse

checkbookA few years ago, when we didn’t yet have a diagnosis, but knew something was wrong with mom and dad, we were concerned that our parents would be victims of elder-abuse scams. We had a major incident when my mom hired two contractors for the same work, one of which charged 5 times a reasonable rate for the work that needed to be done. Thankfully, we were able to get the contract cancelled in time.

While we wanted our parents to hand over the checkbook and let us help them, my parents refused and were a little angry that we even suggested such a notion. I now understand that keeping control and having a sense of meaning and purpose is not just important to recognize, but a monstrous roadblock for many to overcome.

As my parent’s were losing control of the world around them, the one thing they could do was pay bills and send off donations to the growing number of charities asking for money through the mail. I started to notice that my parents were making a LOT of donations to new charities. For years, they had always done the donations once a year, after doing checks to validate the varied non-profit organizations and their finances. Now, I was watching weekly mailings to new charities I had never heard of.

It seemed that the charities that got money, freely shared the names of donors with others. The mail seemed to grow with more requests for donations. Most of the mailings showed up and looked like bills, or had language on them to the effect of “Here is confirmation of your pledge.”

When I asked my parents, they couldn’t even tell me what most of the charities did. When I asked why they were changing their annual donations to monthly, they brushed off my question.

I still feel like many of these charities took advantage of my parents. They seemed to count on the fact that my parents wouldn’t remember they didn’t “pledge” funds and in a way, coerced them into donating.

I fought with my godly self because many of the charities were indeed well run and regarded and doing good work. But my logical, righteous self grew angry over the ploys and tactics they were using on my parents.

Eventually, the checkbook did get turned over. As I was cleaning up some old files, I came across an old register and more than half of all the checks were to charities. While I still carry a bit of rage over the tactics, now that mom is unable to manage to even sign her name, maybe a few hundred dollars every year to these charities was worth the sense of independence it gave my mom when she could still write a check. Conflicted. 

11 thoughts on “A Different Degree of Elder Abuse

  1. A few hundred dollars may have been worth some sense of independence, but the amount could easily have grown beyond what they or you as their caregiver could handle without affecting their care. You did the right thing.

  2. I’m dealing with this with my parents. Like you, I know how important independence is to them. But I also know their funds are important to taking care of them in the future. Finding a good balance is really tough. I want them to make as many decisions as they still can. But there’s always a risk they’ll make a decision to spend or give a large sum unwisely, even if it’s not a scam.

  3. My mother was paying for credit card fraud protection and it took quite an effort on my part ot get those charges refunded.

    1. Arg. I have a host of unusable debit cards that got sent to me to refund several magazines that my parents subscribe to over the telephone. They wondered why they were getting Rolling Stone magazine since they had no idea who any of the people were. ; >

  4. Hi Kay, I don’t tune in here often, but this is one I’ve also been through a few times as the family support person and POA for people with dementia. I do feel these charities, and other organisations are ‘abusing’ their roles and rights to cold call for donations. It is indeed a struggle between the persons’ right to some independence, and them being ripped off. No help coming from me, other than ‘I hear you’ and I too was ‘conflicted’! Take care, Kate

  5. Dear Kay,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “A Different Degree of Elder Abuse.” It’s beautifully written and compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because this is something that doesn’t get much coverage in the mainstream media. Perhaps it will ignite a conversation and encourage others to pay closer attention to what’s happening with their own aging parents.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to share your story with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


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