When you hear the phrase “Senior Citizen Abuse” your mind conjures up an image. That’s the way our minds work. When I say “dog,” you don’t think of the letters D – O – G. You picture a dog. If I say “Big brown dog” your image changes. “Big brown muddy-pawed snarling dog” and it changes again, and so on.

I want to paint you a new picture of “Senior Citizen Abuse.” Or perhaps an alternative to the picture you now have. This Senior Citizen Abuse doesn’t include being yelled at by a mean step-sister. It doesn’t include withholding food or attention, or neglect. It is white collar in nature.

Aunt Gertrude, who needs assistance, appoints Milly as her attorney in fact through a Power of Attorney document. Aunt Gertrude doesn’t get around as well as she used to and her vision isn’t what it was in her younger days, so she is so very thankful for her niece, Milly. Milly goes to the store to pick up her Aunt’s groceries and prescriptions. She reads her Aunt’s mail to her and sometimes even does cleaning at her house. Aunt Gertrude says she is a real blessing.

What Aunt Gertrude doesn’t know is that Milly is robbing her blind. You see, Milly, as the attorney in fact, can write checks on Aunt Gertrude’s checking account. So when Milly goes to the grocery store for her aunt, she does her own grocery shopping as well. And though Aunt Gertrude is eligible for a better vision plan under her health care plan, she doesn’t know it. Milly didn’t read that letter to her Aunt. She likes being able to screen all of the information Aunt Gertrude receives. . .like her bank statements and the statements of her meager investments.

If left unchecked, Milly will empty the investment account and hide the money in one of a hundred ways that are hard to track. Aunt Gertrude may have wanted to leave something to her church or her grandchildren as a legacy. But it won’t be there. And Milly will simply say that it was ‘all used up’ caring for dear Aunt Gertrude.
I speak to clients almost daily who know of or strongly suspect this type of abuse. So when you next hear “Senior Citizen Abuse” I want you to picture the sweet niece, Milly, helping her poor Aunt Gertrude, pushing a grocery cart that is unusually full. . .

Keep sharing your comments and stories with us. We’ll all be better equipped to care for the seniors among us.