An Auckland family counsellor is calling for more protection for the elderly from the risk of financial abuse by professional caregivers.
Stephen Taylor, family counsellor and director of Relationship Matters Ltd, believes stronger measures are needed to protect vulnerable elderly from being exploited by state-funded and private in-home caregivers.
“One case I became familiar with was a woman who worked as an in-home caregiver, and who had groomed and then financially exploited so many elderly clients, she ended up with a portfolio of 10 properties to her name.”
Mr Taylor believes the elderly, who have often built up significant assets during their lives, are vulnerable to being emotionally manipulated by caregivers because of the nature of the role.
Often, he says, families are powerless to intervene in the situation.
Mr Taylor is inviting anyone who has had this experience to contact him, as he plans to present a petition to the government calling for the creation of stronger measures to protect the elderly.
Some of the obvious areas that need addressing, Mr Taylor says, are:
* Lawyers of clients should be excluded from being beneficiaries of their client’s Will.
* Financial abuse of the elderly should be a “criminal” matter instead of a “civil” matter.
* Criminal sanctions must be available to families and agencies to prosecute caregivers who place their clients in a position of dependency on them.
* No service provider, public or state-funded, that is supplying any service to a client should be involved in the personal and financial affairs of their clients.
* There should be a professional association for private and state funded caregivers (in home or otherwise), a Code of Ethical Conduct, and meaningful training in ethics.
* Money and gifts from clients to their service delivery provider should be off limits.
* The Health & Disability Commissioner needs more firepower, funding, people and resources to speed up decisions on complaints which currently can take more than a year.
* Anyone who is professional caregiver should have an EPOA if they are a recipient of any personal financial benefits from an elderly person, and if they do have an EPOA and/or have been named as a beneficiary of a client’s Will, then they should have to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they attained the role of a beneficiary legitimately.
Mr Taylor may be contacted at email@example.com
Please go to https://bewarecare.org/ for more information on this issue, and to share your story of elder financial abuse.
A daughter regularly goes to visit her elderly mother in a high-profile NZ-based Retirement Home Provider.
A state-funded Caregiver is appointed by the Retirement Home Provider to provide in-home caregiving services to the elderly mother.
Over time, the daughter notices that the caregiver appears to be spending a lot of time with the daughters mother, and that the daughters mother talks about “how wonderful” the caregiver is.
One day, the daughter arrives at the mothers unit, and sees two caregivers working on site.
“This is one of my team, and I’m just training them up” is the explanation given by the original caregiver.
On a subsequent visit, the daughter visits her mother, and finds the “junior” caregiver sitting in the lounge of the unit, but the caregiver is not doing any work.
“Where’s Mum?” enquired the daughter.
“In with my Team Leader, but you can’t go in there, they are having a private conversation”.
Yes, the Team leader was indeed “having a private conversation” with the daughters elderly mother.
10 points for anyone who can guess what the daughter (as EPOA) found out when she checked her elderly mothers bank statements, and cross-checked the sharp rise in account debits leaving her mothers account (money going into two separate third-party accounts), since the caregiver began providing state-funded service delivery?
Imagine a couple in their nineties, being NASC – assessed by a third party DHB-funded NGO.
The NASC assessor starts the assessment process by (wrongly) throwing suspicion on the family for even having the temerity to consider that their parents might be in need of an increased level of support and assistance.
The Rest Home Provider communicates a similar suspicion against the family.
The NASC results for the couple are then found to be disparate (in conflict).
One party to the couple is fully functional, the other party is in need of near-hospital rest home care.
The NASC assessor makes the recommendation that the couple should be split apart.
The family (quite rightly) tell the NASC Assessor to get stuffed, and manage to purchase a serviced unit for their elderly parents that doesn’t have as many restrictions as a hospital care unit.
Soon after the elderly couple settle in, one of the Rest Home Providers staff (a gardener) arrives on the property, and begins to strike up a relationship with the couple.
Over time, the Rest Home Providers gardener (who is also quite a proficient handyman) gains the confidence of the couple, and is the “go to” person for any jobs that need doing around the property.
The gardener begins calling the elderly male in the couple relationship ‘Dad”.
The gardener then starts to “notice” jobs around the house that the gardener thinks might need some attention (jobs which don’t actually need any attention at all).
The gardener not only illegitimately increases the number of jobs he is doing around the elderly couples house; he also starts ratcheting his hourly rate up as well.
By the time the elderly couples family members cotton on to what is going on, the gardener is charging $1000.00 a day for a days work – all right under the nose of their employer, the same Rest Home Provider who none-too-subtly accused the family members of trying to fob off their 90 year old parents.
When called out for his outrageous and exploitive behaviour, the gardener threatens physical harm upon the elderly couples family members.
The Rest Home does nothing – as far as we know, the gardener is still employed by the Rest Home Provider.
Bewarecare has the name and location of the Rest Home Provider – we are considering whether or not to publish it.
So, I wrote this:
And Age Concerns Response was this (see page 8):
Age Concern, BewareCare New Zealand dispute erupts into the public domain, over protection of elderly from Caregiver financial grooming and abuse.
A growing dispute regarding the effectiveness of advocacy for elderly who are financially abused by their state-funded and private caregivers has erupted into the public domain, with Age Concern scrambling to protect their community advocacy brand against an opinion piece recently published by BewareCare NZ.
The original BewareCare NZ article is here:
In response, the CEO of Age Concern, Kevin Lamb, took pains to refute the claims by BewareCare New Zealand:
Stephen Taylor, Convenor of BewareCare NZ, is both bemused and satisfied by the response of Age Concern.
“In their public reply to BewareCare NZ, it seems to me that the CEO of Age Concern, Kevin Lamb, is confirming the central premises of our original article, these premises being that Age Concern receives state funding; they receive complaints; and they have absolutely no power to enforce, sanction, or hold those people who commit financial grooming and abuse in any way accountable for their actions against a very vulnerable population” says Mr Taylor.
Rather than trying to minimise their brand damage against what are legitimate concerns being raised by BewareCare NZ, it would make more sense for Age Concern to support BewareCare NZ in the petition we are preparing to the incoming Government regarding the steps needed to minimise the possibility of financial abuse against the elderly.
BewareCare NZ exists:
1/ To publicly expose the rampant “open season” upon the vulnerable elderly who are being financially groomed and abused by Caregivers in New Zealand;
2/ To lobby Government to create meaningful protective factors for this vulnerable population who are being financially groomed and abused by Caregivers;
3/ To encourage the NZ legal system to enforce meaningful sanctions against Caregivers who commit acts of such financial grooming and abuse against this vulnerable population.
The original article was here.
Age Concern Auckland CEO Kevin Lambs response is below:
Elder Abuse something we all must fight
It was disappointing to read in the recent opinion article from Stephen Taylor that he thinks Age Concern is a state funded echo chamber that does not take complaints of elder abuse seriously.
As the CEO of Age Concern Auckland I know this is simply not the case and that his comments are far from reality. Firstly, and very briefly, to say we are a state funded organisation is simply not correct. Age Concern receives only partial funding from the government, (so, you are state funded – ed) however, to deliver the services and essential support we provide we rely on the generosity of the community.
Secondly, and far more importantly, we investigate all elder abuse complaints we receive. (No you don’t. I have evidence that you don’t. What you do is offer simpering faux-empathy, and then admit that your organisation has no powers to meaningfully investigate complaints, or effect any sanctions – you are just a complaints echo chamber-ed). In the last 12 months our dedicated team of specialist Elder Abuse Response Workers supported 617 older people across Auckland to address the abuse they were experiencing. We worked closely with a plethora of organisations including New Zealand Police, banks, lawyers, doctors and many others during this process. All of us working for the same goal of stopping the abuse and protecting the older person involved.
Unfortunately, the reality is that Elder abuse is a complex and frequently hidden problem, that occurs far too often. An analysis of data from the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing concluded that 10% of the population aged over 65 years who are living in the community experience abuse. However, it is estimated that only 1 in 14 of all abuse incidents come to the attention of a service agency, like Age Concern, that can intervene to help stop the abuse. (Age Concern has no powers of intervention, which is why 75% of people with a complaint don’t contact you – they already know that Age Concern has no ability whatsoever to help them – ed).This is for a variety of reasons but not least because in 4 out of 5 cases of Elder Abuse the offender is a family member of the victim.
I wholeheartedly agree that more has to be done to protect older members of our community from elder abuse and we need to stop it. How do we do that? A first step, is if you see abuse, speak out against it.
Elder Abuse can be a very sensitive and distressing matter to speak openly about, but I encourage everyone in the community to be aware of the risk factors and speak out if they are experiencing abuse or are concerned that someone they know is. Age Concern will listen to your concerns, and we will look at what can be done to assist (This admission confirms my original premise -you have no agency powers whatsoever – ed). We must work together to protect the older members of our community.
We are appreciative of Stephen raising this important issue. (No you’re not – you’re embarrassed that I have raised the issue, and you are now scrambling to protect your service brand in the public space -ed). It is a matter that needs and deserves a far higher level of public dialogue. Age Concern Auckland actively works to support all those who need our help and we are thankful to the community for their support in assisting us to do this.
If you have any concerns about Elder Abuse you can speak confidentially to Age Concern Auckland by calling us on 09 820 0184.
CEO Age Concern Auckland
Fundraising & Communications Manager
Age Concern Auckland Incorporated
PO Box 19542, Avondale, Auckland 1026
57 Rosebank Road, Avondale
Mob: 021 120 5989 Fax: +64 9 8281660
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