Guardianships are often put in place to help support and protect seniors who have advanced memory issues or other concerns that make independence possible. While these can be helpful for those who have loved ones in charge of the guardianships, there is also a possibility for guardianship fraud and abuse.
A recent piece by U.S. Representative Charlie Crist of Florida details some of the forms this fraud can take and ways that seniors can stay protected.
Since guardianships control finances, living arrangements, and medical decisions, having the wrong hands in charge can be disastrous for seniors. Guardianship fraud and abuse can involve taking funds from seniors, including their Social Security benefits and retirement savings.
A few ways to protect yourself or a loved one include:
Create power of attorney documents – These will ensure that only someone you trust can make important decisions for you.
Talk with a lawyer – Have a lawyer look over any important documents, like a living will.
Call on Congress to pass legislation – Ask you representatives to pass legislation protecting seniors.
Taking these steps can help you stay protected against guardianship fraud and abuse.
For older adults, elder abuse is a serious problem. According to the National Institute on Aging, many older adults experience abuse each year. Elder abuse can happen to anyone and can be at the hands of a family member, friend, or caregiver. Because of this, it’s important to know the signs of elder abuse and know what to do if you suspect someone you know is a victim of abuse.
What are the Warning Signs?
There are many indications of possible elder abuse. However, some of the more common ones include:
Unexplained bruises or injuries
Unusual changes in mood or behavior
Withdrawing from activities or social interactions
Sudden changes in financial status or activity
A caregiver who is overly controlling or demanding
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, it’s important to reach out and offer help. You can contact a local elder abuse hotline or the police to report your concerns.
Sharing the signs of elder abuse can also help to educate others and prevent abuse from happening in the first place. Share what you’ve learned on social media or with your friends and family to help raise awareness.
The Seniors Center is here to support seniors by raising awareness of elder abuse and other forms of fraud and abuse targeting seniors.
Many seniors have had their lives upended by unwanted guardianships. Guardians step in when an older adult is no longer able to take care of themselves and ask the courts to appoint them as the person in charge of the senior’s finances, living situation, and overall well-being. While it can sound like a good thing that vulnerable seniors have someone looking out for them, guardianships can sometimes be insidious.
The Problem with For-Profit Guardianships
The Seniors Center Blog has reported on for-profit guardianships in the past. These typically involve a non-family member taking control of the senior’s life. They might take from their bank accounts, intercept Social Security benefits, and place the senior into an unhealthy living situation.
New testimony in Congress this September could make a difference. According to reporting by ThinkAdvisor, a witness who testified in front of Congress is calling on the Social Security administration to share information about guardianships and representative payees, who can receive benefits on someone’s behalf. Because the Social Security administration doesn’t currently share that information, they often continue to pay out benefits to this person even if the state has removed them as the senior’s guardian. It’s time for Congress to take action to protect older Americans.