A woman called me for an appointment, saying she
heard I work with caregivers. Many of my clients
are caregivers, and they are amazing people. Most
of them work very long hours, are under incredible
emotional pressure, and have little support. They
want so badly to do the very best for their loved one.
This woman was no exception.
When we met, she shared with me that her father had been
diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, but was
still able to live by himself. Just recently, she
had started checking on him more frequently, as he was
getting more forgetful. She shared that she would
go by his house a couple of times a week to bring food
and visit with him.
One day, she stopped by and found a statement from his
checking account on the kitchen counter. It showed
that his account was overdrawn by $15,000. When
she asked him about it, he told her he did not know what
happened, and started to cry. He showed her some
mail he had been receiving, and she was surprised to
find that he had been sending checks to a number of
After hours of research in his home and at the bank, she
learned the horrible truth of why her father’s account
was overdrawn. It all started when he responded to
a sweepstakes offer, and then was sent a letter
explaining that in order to receive his prize, he had to
send in a check for $25. Once he did this, his
name must have been sold to other similar companies as a
multitude of “sweepstakes offers” began coming to his
home. Each one offered a big prize, and told him
to send in a check for $20-$30 to pay “handling charges”
so his prize could be sent out to him.
Some of these companies had even gained permission to
draft funds directly from his checking account.
This caregiver was shocked to learn that anyone would
take advantage of someone like her father, and angered
to learn from the police that this type of thing is
She tried to gently manage the problem by monitoring him
more closely, but finally realized she needed to take
over control of his mail to stop the sweepstakes
letters. The only way to do this was to re-route
his mail to a P.O. box and hand-deliver the mail to him
daily. She hated taking away a part of his
independence, but knew it was what she had to do.
I wanted to share this story with you to make you aware
that this can happen, but it can also be prevented.
Here are a few tips for caregivers who are responsible
for monitoring finances:
- Create a simple budget, so you have an idea of your
loved one’s expenses each month. This way, if an
unusual expense shows up (like an unusually high utility
bill), you’ll notice and know to question it.
- Monitor the mail. I’ve heard stories from a number
of clients who tell me their loved ones will send money
to numerous charities without knowing anything about
- Have a durable power of attorney for finances.
This will enable you to make financial decisions in the
case that your loved one is incapacitated.
- Document money that you spend, that belonged to the
person you are caring for. Start a journal or log,
and simply write down what you buy with their resources.
Even if your siblings currently trust you and are happy
with how you are managing things, do it. It will
give you peace of mind, and you’ll be able to show
anyone who asks “where the money went.”
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