The pandemic has kept our aging parents away from us and us away from them for over a year. This isolation is not total. Some people have access, some ignore warnings, and some are intent on using the pandemic to hide their actions. There are no lengths to which predators won’t go to get ahold of an elder’s assets. When family members aren’t hearing about any problems with an aging parent, they can get lulled into a false sense of security. Maybe you live at a distance from your loved one. Maybe you call but because of Covid restrictions, have not visited for some time. A phone call which gives you the idea that things are okay can hide some problems. Family’s inability to see aging parents in person can be perfect cover for an abuser.
Here’s what we’re seeing at AgingParents.com, where we learn about alarming scenarios that were hidden during the pandemic shutdowns. Caregivers can get away with whatever they want when no one but the impaired elder is watching. Family members who live nearby aging parents and were able to be with them, despite restrictions on visiting, are not accountable to other family members. Manipulation of elders on important legal documents such as Durable Power of Attorney, trusts, wills, and ownership of homes has taken place. Intimidation and silencing of elders by threats from unscrupulous people can take place when no one knows about it.
What does this mean for you, if you haven’t seen Mom, Dad or a grandparent for a year or more? Assuming you are all fully vaccinated, do visit as soon as is feasible. When you do, use the visit as a reason to do a review of all legal matters as well as ways to increase engagement and end isolation when appropriate.
Here’s a checklist to consider:
- Look for any signs that anyone has had access to your loved ones and has used the opportunity of isolation to take advantage of them. Caregivers and those in close contact are not all perfectly trustworthy all the time.
- Have the family will and trust (if they exist) reviewed and updated as needed. This is a good time to bring this up. The pandemic reminds us that life is fragile and this can be a motivator for an elder and family to go over legal documents, or create them if your aging parents and grandparents have not done this. Manipulation of anyone to recently change legal documents will come to light when they are reviewed.
- Ask if there is caregiving in place or if any help is needed. Isolation of elders, totally necessary to keep them safe for the last year, is lifting in places where infection rates of Covid19 are declining. Sometimes, loss of health and independence has gone on with those living alone or without anyone to raise the alarm when a downhill slide was happening. It’s not necessarily safe to take an aging parent’s word by itself for how they’re doing. See for yourself.
- Consider that not every aging parent can get back to what used to be “normal activities” without some help. Senior centers, gyms, and recreation centers have been shut down completely in many parts of the country for a long time. Do your research for your elders to find out what opportunities they do have now or what may be opening up soon. You can help them find out, make plans, arrange transportation or whatever is indicated when you visit. Getting them back to activities reduces the risks of being alone all the time and giving rise to forms of abuse by opportunists.
The end of isolation can mean the end of cover for anyone who was using it as a means to prey on loved ones. Isolation itself, as in not letting others visit in person or talk to an aging parent alone is a well known red flag of financial abuse and other forms of abuse as well. Your watchful eye now can stop or prevent it.