Dear Carol: My dad has in-home agency caregivers come in for several hours every day because my sister and I both work full time and can’t be with him. These caregivers are good for the most part, so we’re happy with them and thrilled that Dad accepts them. However, there’s one young woman who comes three out of the five days whom he particularly likes to the point of attachment.
I don’t want to be overly suspicious, but I sometimes wonder because I read about older people, especially older men, becoming targets for their money. How do I know if this is just a genuinely caring person who is great with older people or if she is “grooming” my dad to turn over his assets or something? Am I being paranoid to even worry about this? — KT.
Dear KT: While it isn’t exceptionally common, grooming older adults in order to scam them does happen under circumstances that you described. Of course, it also happens in families where some adult children don’t want to see that money “wasted” on providing care. Therefore, just like the physical and/or emotional abuse of older adults, this type of fraud is not limited to paid caregivers or nursing homes.
Normally, when we as family caregivers witness genuine closeness between hired caregivers and their clients, we feel fortunate. I witnessed special closeness with some hands-on care providers who cared for my parents in a nursing home. This closeness made my life far easier since no family member could be there all the time.
On the practical level, their relationship helped me feel confident that I’d be notified anytime there were problems or questions. On a personal level, I was grateful because my parents were happier than they otherwise would have been.
In a circumstance more similar to yours, my uncle had caregivers in his home for many hours daily and he, too, had favorites. That's normal when these caregivers spend hours with the people they care for. He did leave two caregivers some money when he died, but it wasn’t an exorbitant amount, so we thought that this was fine.
While there are notable exceptions, I feel that you may have some protection by hiring through an agency. A reputable agency should have done a thorough background check on their employees. Additionally, they may have restrictions on what their employees can accept as gifts from the people under their care. Of course, if the person is truly criminal, they’d likely know how to circumvent regulations.
My feeling is that we need to be aware of the possibility of scammers, but also cautious about accusing people without proof. We love our older family members and know that they are vulnerable, but we also need others to care about them.
Unless you see signs of unexplained money being designated to this person or feel that they are trying to distance your dad from his family, it’s likely that this caring relationship is positive for everyone concerned.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.