Note the power of the media to not only highlight the plight of the abandoned and vulnerable elderly, but to shame Age Concern into actually doing something meaningful for them.
I see that Age (not really that) Concerned is the go-to for commentary on this story. Lots of peal-clutching and tut-tutting, just no real answers to the problem.
A reader writes:
“My mother (91) and father (97) had been using a handyman/gardener for about three years. He seemed to do a good job and got on with them to the point where he was almost becoming like a son to them. This wasn’t problematic until there became an urgent need for my mother to move into a rest home because she had lost most of her physical mobility and had had to go to hospital for on two occasions within the same week or because of other health problems.
After much difficulty, I managed to find a hospital rest home bed for my mother in a retirement village/rest home that also had a serviced apartment that my father could purchase so that he could be close to her.
I was going to direct the handyman/gardener from this point on as to looking after their large family home, but he decided to stop working for my parents as he had an issue with me. My father called him back and after that the understanding was that my father would continue to tell him what needed to be done.
Not long after that my mother passed away, and this is when the financial abuse started to become noticeable.
My father received rent from a house he owned of $560 a month, all of which he would give to the gardener/handyman who didn’t seem to be doing a lot around the property.
The relationship between my father and the gardener/handyman had become even more father and son like, with the gardener/handyman calling my father “dad”.
Then he charged $1000 for what looked like about a days work. By this time myself and my siblings were getting concerned that the gardener/handyman was increasingly overcharging and I asked for receipts.
The gardener/handyman then claimed I threatened his mother when I rang her to leave a message. The gardener/handyman did not, or claimed not, to have a phone or a bank account, with all payments strictly cash.
He said that if I ever threatened his mother again he would find out where I lived and deal to me. He then went to see my father and made all sorts of accusations about me including that I was disrespectful to my parents.
One of my sisters took over dealing with the handyman and suggested a “cooling off” period of two weeks. We paid him the $1000 and a few weeks later he told my father he wouldn’t be working for him anymore.
Of course, the situation was a lot more complicated than this brief description outlines. The essence of the problem was that my father had complete faith in the gardener/handyman and was not able to comprehend that he could be ripping him off.
My father had complete charge over his own affairs and while in a state of mind that made him vulnerable, would not have been considered by a doctor to be in need of the Enduring Power Of Attorney being enacted.
It is quite feasible for old people to be ripped off by people they know, while concerned families have no power to do anything about this.
Our concern was that the financial abuse was going to increase and my father could be manipulated into other actions as well such as having my father’s Will altered.
Luckily, and surprisingly, my father agreed to enacting the EDOA for his financial affairs during the cooling off period which my sister arranged with the lawyers so that there was some degree of protection if my father had kept the gardener/handyman”.
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- the conversation was about the mother giving money to the two caregivers. One would have the conversation, and one would stay in the lounge to make sure no-one else could come in and interrupt the conversation.
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?
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
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ageconcernauck/
Key quote in the article:
“I have seen elder abuse up close,” he says, “and I know there are people out there who would move heaven and earth to end the life of a person if it meant they could get their hands on the money. I have seen and heard of some terrible experiences”.