Locals urged to start the conversation

ONE reader says it is important that people have discussions with all family members regarding their long-term care and financial situation.

We read a lot about dementia and Alzheimer's and how it affects not only the sufferers, but friends and family and especially carers.

There are many in our community who care tirelessly for loved ones without reward or recognition.

These people are precious and deserve support.

Indeed it is wise to be educated about the condition and what we can all do to understand and help those who suffer.

However, another conversation that needs to be had is the responsibility of taking care of a persons financial matters when they are no longer able to do this for themselves.

It's always a good idea to talk to family members before this happens to be sure that needs and wishes are met.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a little known crime that affects many.

It is poorly defined, in part because it is hard to define, which makes it difficult to identify, investigate, and prosecute.

The elderly can be particularly vulnerable after the death of a loved one. These vulnerabilities, including isolation, loneliness, generally trusting natures, relative wealth, and in some cases declining mental capabilities-make them ideal quarry for con artists.

Even those whose cognition is intact can be swayed if they're stressed or depressed, or recently have lost a loved one.

It is also difficult to detect and often it is perpetrated by those who the elder person trusts, i.e. family members, friends, and caregivers.

Domestic settings are not only a frequent setting for this abuse, but their tendency to involve complex family dynamics and deep-seated conflicts tends to make them particularly challenging.

Further complicating efforts to establish the parameters of financial abuse of the elderly are that both the elder person and the perpetrator may feel that the perpetrator has some entitlement to the elder person's assets.

Elder persons may feel a desire to benefit their heirs or to compensate those who provide them with care, affection, or attention.

It can be difficult to discern a transfer of assets made with consent from an abusive transfer.

It is widely recognized that it is complex even for experienced professionals, to distinguish an unwise but legitimate financial transaction from an exploitative transaction resulting from undue influence, duress, fraud, or a lack of informed consent.

It is very important then, that people have discussions with all family members regarding their long-term care and financial situation.

Communication is the key.

Family members and/or friends should check up on their relatives and look out for the warning signs which include but is not restricted to:

Missing property

Large unexplained bank withdrawals

Unfamiliar signatures on important documents

Unexplained transfer of money or assets

Changes in will or beneficiaries.

It is wise for those who have been entrusted with the responsibilities of taking care of their loved ones finances to be educated on what it means to be a Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney.

Open and honest accountability is vital. Records of all transactions should be kept.

The lines of communication should be open with family and keeping "secrets" about your loved ones affairs, should be avoided.

Also be aware of telephone scammers and other individual who have access to your loved one.

Many caregivers, family members, financial services employees and police officers aren't trained in preventing, detecting or dealing with financial exploitation of the elderly.

And there's often a lack of co-ordination between agencies and professionals who have pieces of the puzzle.

Perhaps financial service professionals should be given more effective tools to protect clients whenever an adviser or registered representative suspects financial or other abuse of a vulnerable client.

Financial abuse of the elderly is the ultimate betrayal.

Talking about and being aware of financial abuse may not stop it, but it can go a long way towards keeping our loved ones safe.

* The NewsMail withheld the identity of the author.

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