Joan showed up at the office looking frazzled and exhausted. As she sat down, the words began to pour out of her, showing her level of frustration with the financial problems her mother was experiencing.
“Today, I found out from the bank that my Mom gave out her checking account number to some phone solicitor who is now taking almost a hundred dollars a month for some facial products. Last month it was pillows, the month before it was a charity I have never heard of…this is driving me insane,” she said with exacerbation.
Joan explained that her father died in 2015, leaving her mother, who had worked as a nurse at a local hospital before retiring, to manage the house and finances on her own.
“I thought everything was going fine. I spoke to her daily, she seemed upbeat and often complained that I called her too much and that I should concentrate on my own husband and children instead. She said that if she needed anything, she would let me know and that I should stop worrying.”
But things took a drastic turn last summer.
“I received a call from the emergency room telling me that my mother was there suffering from dehydration and that her COPD was flaring up,” Joan said. “When I got to the hospital, Mom told me that her power was shutoff and she didn’t know why. It was a hot week and she had no air conditioning, but she never called to tell me. When I went to the house, the heat was stifling, and I found months of electric bills, cable bills and insurance premium invoices stuffed into a drawer in the kitchen. It was shocking how things had changed so quickly.”
“Since then I’ve spent more time at her house making sure everything is paid, monitoring her bank accounts, calling about lost credit or ATM cards, making sure things have been deposited, I can go on and on. I actually spend more time there after work on her financial issues than I do on my own family’s expenses.”
Joan’s plight is becoming more and more common as adult children across the country find themselves taking care of their parent’s finances because aging has affected their ability to manage the household expenses.
“The sad thing is”, according to Joan, “she is able to live independently but just can’t stay on top of the everyday issues of paying bills or monitoring her own money. And given the scams that seem to pop up on the news every day, I’m afraid she could be wiped out financially before I would even find out about it!”
This is an increasing problem in a graying America. Let’s look at the numbers.
According to the United States census bureau, the number of Americans ages 80
and above jumped by 20% between 2000 and 2010. During the time, the median age of Americans rose nearly two years – to 37.2 from 35.3.
The baby boomers are also now in a mad rush past retirement, with the first set of this group reaching 65 in 2011. As of the 2010 census, there were more than 40 million people in this country 65 and older with that number projected to reach 72 million by 2030.
And along with the number of seniors on the rise, so are the costs of nursing and senior living care. Keeping those who can live independently in their homes makes sense from a social and economic standpoint but how do you keep them safe from those who would exploit them financially?
Enter the professional fiduciary and daily money management services, called by many the most important job you never heard of.
Studies show that daily money managers help seniors remain home longer and avoid costly out of home expenses. Money managers ensure that bills are paid on time, checks are deposited, taxes are paid, checkbooks are kept balanced and insurance payments are kept current. These services can help seniors avoid eviction, loss of medical coverage, foreclosure, utility shutoffs and other credit problems.
This service also helps to relieve the burden on caregivers, as in Joan’s case.
Daily money managers also help protect seniors from scams and other financial fraud and abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that this service has been instrumental in saving many seniors from the loss of savings and other assets. Money managers review bank and credit card statements, are aware of what to look for in cases of fraud – such as large withdrawals, checks written to multiple charities or other groups for large amounts and frequent withdrawals from ATMs or other charges.
Daily money managers also provide services to groups other than the elderly. Other clients who can benefit from daily money management include those with physical issues such as those with poor eyesight, arthritis or Parkinson’s disease. Those with issues such as attention deficit disorder who have difficulty organizing their affairs also benefit from these services. Money managers also help busy professionals who either don’t have the time or the desire to deal with their finances because of extensive travel and packed schedules.
“Daily money managers provide multiple services to clients”, said RJ Connelly, III, certified elder law attorney whose offices provide these services as part of an overall professional fiduciary department in his firm. “What is important to know is that daily money managers are not CPAs or accountants, attorneys, licensed investment advisors, stock or security brokers, insurance agents, or medical or social service professionals. However, they work in collaboration with these professionals in order to achieve the desired goal for the client.”
But, not just anyone should be put in charge of a senior’s finances. Increasingly, families are hiring outside help to assist with an elder parent or a loved one with special needs because a friend recommended them and having no knowledge of their background. Sometimes this ends up with disastrous results.
Below are just some of the cases that have emerged here in Southern New England:
In New Britain, Connecticut, a city woman was accused of bilking an elderly home care companion client of $35,000, which was used to buy cars, an apartment, plane tickets and a variety of goods, police said. Amber Foster, 26, was charged with first-degree larceny, identify theft and credit card theft.
Westport, CT police arrested a home health care aid who was accused of stealing $12,000 from an elderly client. Fantasia Best, 30, of Stratford, worked for the elderly victim from October 2015 to April 2016 and used the victim’s ATM card to withdraw money for herself several times, according to police.
In Fairfield, CT a home health aide was arrested after police say she stole from the elderly clients for whom she was supposed to be providing care. A video was used as a key piece of evidence, showing a woman who police identify as Kris Marsan rummaging through a drawer. She allegedly searched until she found an envelope and removed the money inside, the cash visible in her hand as she left the house. It's just one of two cases the 47-year-old aide has been charged in, and there could be more.
In Weymouth, Massachusetts police arrested a woman who allegedly stole over $15,000 from an elderly woman. Authorities said that 88-year-old Josephine Lally was slowly and systematically stolen from by her caregiver, Theresa Jenson, for about a year and a half. Lally’s daughter, and overseer of her financial accounts, contacted the police after she noticed several peculiar withdrawals from her mother’s account. (VIDEO)
In Bellingham, Massachusetts, a home health aide was charged with stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly couple she was working with. Police said Stephanie Crosman, 49, of Sharon, wrote herself checks and used various debit and credit cards to make unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals totaling more than $12,000. Court documents reveal she also had a case in Dedham District Court in which she was accused of using the credit card of an elderly Dedham woman to make $16,000 in unauthorized purchases.
In Fall River, Massachusetts a 61-year-old city woman was convicted of stealing over $120,000 from an elderly woman she was hired to care for and was sentenced to house arrest. Kathleen King was a companion and part-time caregiver for the woman. The victim, now 97 years old, is blind, deaf, and largely mute. Due to her age and disabilities, she was unavailable for any potential trial. Since King had no income aside from a small monthly federal welfare check, she was ordered to pay just $1,800 in restitution.
In Newport, Rhode Island, a woman who worked as a nursing assistant for two local companies was charged with stealing more than $500 from an elderly Middletown woman.
In Warwick, Rhode Island, police charged a Cumberland woman and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) with stealing about $7,000 worth of jewelry from an elderly woman she cared for who was suffering from dementia. In the course of the investigation, detectives discovered the CNA, Eunice Xavier, 42, of Cumberland, had sold the missing jewelry to a pawn broker, according to the Warwick Police Department. They also learned that Xavier had sold about 80 items to pawn brokers since 2007.
Video from Action News, Channel 41 in Kansas City. MO. of a home care provider who systematically stole items from a woman she provided care to.
In most cases, agencies who hire people to assist with the elderly run background checks on their employees, but these checks are not foolproof. There are a variety of ways in which some of the information can be hidden from the employers. Reference checks may turn out to be fake as the candidate’s acquaintances act as past employers and give a good feedback about the candidate. Financial data can also be forged, and a candidate might have criminal tendencies even though there are no past criminal records.
“This service is certainly needed in our aging society”, said Attorney Connelly, “but as with all things, clients must be aware that some people who claim to be money managers may be out to take a senior’s money rather than manage it. Unfortunately, because this is a relatively new field, there is no government oversight of daily money managers.”
“When hiring someone to provide money management services, doing your own due diligence is imperative in picking a quality daily money manager or an organization that provides these services for yourself or a loved one,” said Connelly.
According to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a good place to find a trusted money managing professional is by contacting the American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM), the national organization that sets standards of practice for its 700 members who are required to abide by a strict Code of Ethics, in accordance with all state and federal laws, and adhere to their principles which can be found on their website (see below).
It is AADMM’s mission to support daily money management services in an ethical manner, to provide information and education to its members and the public, and to continue to develop a network of dedicated professionals.
Connelly Law Offices is a proud member in good standing with the American Association of Daily Money Managers.
As Attorney Connelly explained, “It is our goal at Connelly Law Offices to provide those who engage in our services with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their loved one’s finances will be managed effectively and responsibly by a caring group of fiduciary professionals who work with seniors and those with special needs on a daily basis.”
Attorney Connelly practices in the area of elder law. This area of law involves Medicaid planning and asset protection advice for those individuals entering nursing homes, planning for the possibility of disability through the use of powers of attorney for the both health care and finances, guardianship, estate planning, probate and estate administration, preparation of wills, living trusts and special or supplemental needs trusts. He represents clients primarily in the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) in 2008. Attorney Connelly is licensed to practice before the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Federal Bars.