BEFORE I RETIRED, I was a credit risk manager. I had to take compliance courses annually. One course focused on financial abuse, especially of the elderly. I learned that the most common perpetrators are not strangers, but family members, friends and caregivers who take advantage of too-trusting seniors.
But it’s one thing to know this theoretically—and quite another to find out it’s happening in your own family.
I previously wrote about now both my late father and his close friend were victims of financial abuse. After we discovered what was happening, I thought my three siblings and I had straightened out the family finances.
My youngest brother and I live in the U.S., while my parents were in Thailand. We all agreed that my two middle brothers, who live in Bangkok, should be co-guardians of my parents and their finances. My father was dying of Parkinson’s and my mother was deteriorating mentally and physically, so it made sense to let my brothers have complete control.
We split my parents’ money, enough to last the rest of their lives, between my two brothers in 2019. We had regular Zoom calls to discuss my parents’ physical condition and financial situation. One of my brothers sent us an accounting every quarter, while the other didn’t. When, in early 2020, we finally confronted the brother who hadn’t provided any sort of accounting, he admitted that the money he oversaw was gone.
We consulted an attorney and were advised that we could go to the police to have him arrested. In the end, we decided against it for my mom’s sake. It would have devastated her. My other brother still has the other half of my parents’ money in his care, which should be enough for my mom, now that my father has passed.
Losing my father was hard. I still miss him every day. But we knew it was coming and mentally we could prepare. Losing trust in my brother was in some ways harder. While we can’t recover the money, we have the comfort of knowing that Mom is still okay financially. Many seniors aren’t so fortunate.