While thievery can take on different appearances, it is always ill-intentioned, and the elderly — who are often left alone and are not always able to defend themselves — can appear to be easy targets for thieves. The truth, however, is that you do not have to leave your elder family members defenseless — you can step in and help protect them from theft.
The first thing to consider is the physical safety and protection of your elder family members. If your loved one lives alone or is left alone for the majority of the day, he needs practical measures to defend himself if an intruder enters the house. Installing a security system is a good idea if he is able to accurately recall the alarm's code. A triggered system will automatically alert first responders day or night.
If, however, your family member has a poor memory and will not remember to set or disarm the system, a pet is another option to consider. Oftentimes the elderly just need to be alerted when things are amiss so they know to call for help. The trick is finding a guard dog that is sweet and gentle, yet large enough to be protective and intimidating.
It is also important to ensure he lives in a safe neighborhood and has good relationships with his neighbors — trustworthy and caring friends are the best type of security.
You also need to be aware of scams that target the elderly. Unfortunately, even friendship can be a scam with a hidden agenda to get close to bank accounts and gain influence over wills. To protect a family member from this type of thievery, the best thing you can do is be present in her life. If you are having daily conversations, she will likely tell you about her new friends who are being helpful without wanting anything in return. While there are genuinely nice people worthy of trust, you will want to meet and investigate the intentions of new friends.
If you need to hire help to look after your family member, take the time to run a background check first. You will want to note if they have a criminal record, appear to bounce around from job to job quickly and have received inheritances from nonfamily members. You also need to confirm that any volunteer organization that comes into the home runs background checks — it is a common practice for Meals on Wheels volunteers.
Your final course of action is to become a co-signer on his bank accounts and then become his financial power of attorney. You will need to seek legal counsel to complete this process and will then have your finances, as well as his, to manage. This can be a difficult conversation to have with a loved one, but if the need arises, it is better not to delay and risk his safety.
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