You are a health care professional because your desire is to help people, especially seniors.  You perform your job with the utmost care and professionalism.  In diligently performing your duties, you are exposed to information about your clients that most other people do not see.  For example, you can see, from a patient/client history or from clinical observation issues that may effect not only the physical and mental welfare of your clients but also circumstances that could lead to investment fraud or financial exploitation.

You are privy to seeing such things as social isolation, bereavement, dependence on another to provide care, alcohol or drug abuse, depression or mental illness, cognitive problems, fear, distress, delusional activity, change in appearance, poor hygiene, caregivers who are overly protective, or changes in a patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living, including handling daily finances.  In such circumstances what should you or what can you do?  You have to do something.

Obviously, the first contact should be with trusted relatives or friends of the client.  If there are none or they are part of the problem, you can contact the local office of Adult Protective Services or its equivalent.  Common sense tells us that the sooner that you act the better.  If not you, who?  If not now, when?

If you are uncertain about someone’s mental or emotional capacity in the financial arena, you can ask some simple questions of your client which will assist your investigation such as:

  • Who manages your money day to day and how is it going?
  • Do you run out of money at the end of the month?
  • Do you regret or worry about financial decisions that you have recently made?
  • Have you given a power of attorney to another person?
  • Do you have a will and has anyone recently asked you to change it?

Alternatively, your clients might make an unsolicited comment to you such as:

  • I have trouble paying bills because the bills are confusing to me.
  • I don’t feel confident making big financial decisions alone.
  • I don’t understand financial decisions that someone else is making for me.
  • I give loans or gifts more than I can afford.
  • My children or others are pressuring me to give them money. 
  • Someone is accessing my accounts or my money seems to be disappearing.

Regardless, under the above or any other suspicious circumstances, all could be lost without your concern and help.