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5 Tips for Spotting Family Theft From Older Adult Parents

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Before your mom got sick, she tried to arrange everything so that she would not be a burden on anyone. But now, she is too far gone to pay much attention to what's happening. You're starting to sense that your siblings may not tell you everything.

What do you do? How do you know when an older adult is abused? Are there any clues?

Scams, Financial Exploitation, and Financial Abuse Signs to Watch For

The following is a list of five tips for spotting possible theft or financial abuse from family members. The tips come from Forbes' Carolyn Rosenblatt, a consultant for children of older adult parents.

Any one of these might not indicate a problem, but a combination could signify that it's time to step in.

  • Sudden Secrecy: You and your siblings used to have no secrets from each other, at least not when it came to your parent's finances. Now one or all of them is saying very little and seem to be distancing themselves from you. If you're booted from any credit cards or bank accounts, that should make you wary. Even if something less extreme happens, take the time to inquire.
  • Mutual Support: Let’s say one adult child in a family cannot provide for themselves and lives with an older adult parent, receiving financial support. This may be a good arrangement for everyone, including you and other siblings who are occupied. But when that sibling starts taking over the older adult parent's whole life and seems to be hiding what is happening at home, it could be time to get involved. This is extra important if they don’t discuss mysterious bank withdrawals or how expenses are handled.
  • Parental Isolation: If one of your siblings starts isolating your parents, pay close attention. Abusers of all ages attempt to isolate their victims from others so there is no scrutiny of the relationship. If a sibling is blocking your access to your parent, you may want to push back or investigate. You can call the police or involve adult protective services if you are blocked from accessing the home.
  • Too Close: This is related to the above tip and is an extension. When your sibling doesn't let you be around your parent alone and starts to over-identify with the caretaking role, it may be a sign of abuse. If there is financial elder abuse or manipulation going on, then your sibling might not want anyone to get a chance to be alone with the parent. The warning signs can start small or be subtle red flags.
  • Swooping In: Watch out if very sudden changes are made. Examples are changes to your older adult parent's living arrangements or estate planning documents. Watch out if there isn’t any sibling-wide consultation. Be on the alert if one sibling is suddenly made your parent’s health care and financial power of attorney.

In these instances, your sibling may be innocently assisting your parent. That is the hope for these financial decisions and caretaking roles. But it is up to you to keep a close eye on developments.

Talk to a Lawyer If You Suspect a Caregiver Abusing Aging Parents

An older adult parent may be afraid to speak up about mistreatment by a child. They may not even be able to recognize it. For this reason, you must be vigilant. No family wants to live in fear of its loved ones. But neither should they be naïve.

If you have concerns about your parents' estate or long-term care, speak to an attorney. A lawyer can provide guidance and help you protect your parents and their assets.

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