She had no idea that her family would become involved with criminals. But when three women stole her mother, her savings and eventually her life, she had no choice but to fight back.
“My mother was a victim,” said Glynnis Walker Anderson, investigative journalist and author of the book Stealing Joy: A True Story of Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse and Fraud.
“And the elderly are not the only victims of financial abuse,” she says. “Relatives, spouses, children and grand-children, employees and the community at large are also impacted. Everybody pays when the elderly are abused and financially devastated by predators and frauds.”
Glynnis describes every detail of the unscrupulous tactics of her mother’s predators, and the shocking failure of local law enforcement, social services and government programs to intervene.
A neighbor and a lawyer offered to help Glynnis’s widowed and aging mother, Joy. Instead of assisting her, they schemed to steal her money and her house, turned her against her own family, and seized legal guardianship. The predators even arranged for questionable surgery to hasten her death.
Glynnis had power of attorney but lived near Chicago while her mother lived alone in Victoria, Canada, so the neighbor and the lawyer named themselves Joy’s primary caregivers.
After a series of strokes, Joy spiraled down into Alzheimer’s. Glynnis arranged for her to move into an assisted living facility. The neighbor and the lawyer convinced the facility administrator and staff that Glynnis and her daughters abused her and “dumped” her in the facility. When Glynnis tried calling her mother, the administrator said Joy was angry with her and didn’t want to speak to her.
The situation became more sinister and damaging. Glynnis learned that the lawyer made Joy sign documents she didn’t understand, illegally giving the lawyer power of attorney and creating a new will. The neighbor made a copy of the door key, entered the house and found checkbooks and savings accounts and emptied them all, even the ones overseas. Later she changed the locks so Glynnis couldn't get in. Glynnis sought help from the police and government agencies, but to no avail.
Glynnis says the lies, manipulations, theft and vengeance against her and her daughters cost Glynnis thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs and continued after her mother’s death. At least Glynnis was able to save her mother’s house.
“The actual number of elder abuse cases is probably higher than the data available since most cases of financial and emotional abuse are never reported,” said Glynnis. “Crimes against the elderly will increase because the number of people over age 65 will more than double by 2050.”
Glynnis has organized a Gray Rights Movement to increase awareness of this growing criminality so something will be done about it. “Aging women are the most vulnerable, but entire families are affected.”
Glynnis hopes to increase awareness of this life-destroying crime, enhance the Older Americans Act of 2006, require more accountability of the justice system, and make the costly legal system accessible to seniors who can’t afford it.
“The sad reality is that many older people are neglected when they are powerless or show signs of dementia,” says Glynnis. “They can be victimized by people they trust—lawyers, bankers, financial advisors, doctors, home health care providers, retirement and nursing home managers, friends, and even their own family members.”
The most important step people can take to protect themselves is to have an up-to-date will that includes a plan for distribution of their possessions.
“While you are of sound mind, give one or more of your adult children or another close relative power of attorney,” advises Glynnis. “Family members should agree on who should be responsible, or have two people to oversee the finances so they can watch each other and look for signs of elder abuse,” Anderson says.
Among the actions she recommends for whoever has the authority:
· Watch for signs of increasing forgetfulness or dementia, have the senior tested
· Be suspicious of anyone posing as a trusted new friend or anyone who could benefit financially from being associated
· Become co-owner of the senior’s bank accounts
· Consider putting all assets in a trust
· Monitor the accounts and credit card statements for suspicious activity
· Get a second opinion on surgery or medical needs
· Monitor Medicare summary notices for questionable charges
· Warn the senior not to tell anyone how much money or investments he or she has
· Tell the senior to ignore unsolicited investment offers, requests for donations, etc.
· Tell the senior never to give his or her social security number, bank account number, credit card numbers, birth date, or PIN numbers in response to unwanted telephone calls or letters
· If a caretaker is needed, do a background check and specify what the caretaker can and cannot do
· Keep jewelry, cash, checkbooks, credit cards, etc. in a secure place
· Keep the senior and other family members aware of what you are doing
Her story is sad - but serves as a cautionary tale for all those whose elderly loved ones may be at risk and offers guidance on how to fight against elder fraud.
For more information visit www.glynniswalker.com.