Marcia Southwick ©  9/19/18
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“The false impression out there blaming families and relatives for 90% of elder abuse means that guardians can protect their own paychecks by maligning families in court, which they often do.   It also means that the public is distracted away from looking at the larger entities abusing the elderly right under our noses.”
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Most people believe that elder abuse is all about Granny surrounded by family predators who just want to grab her money and throw her to the wolves. You’ll hear plenty of rumblings claiming that families and people closest to elders are responsible for 90 % of all elder abuse.
The National Care Planning Council is one of many who quote this figure.  The article is titled “ Perpetrators of Elder Abuse are Usually Family Members:” .  Even AARP claims that “ You’d like to think that elder financial abuse is committed mostly by strangers. You’d be wrong. In reality, it’s more likely to come at the hands of family members and caregivers”

Why does everyone blame families?

The latest 2011 study done by MetLife shows that in terms of dollars stolen from elders, families are not the most likely to steal the most dollars:  After examining three months of national news feeds, plus other data, researchers determined that businesses stole $205,243,400; Family members and friends stole $11,515,737, Strangers stole $7,612,513, and Medicaid/Medicare fraud caused the most damage–$306,105,093.)
NAPSA (National Adult Protective Services Association) is another organization that blames families for most of the elder abuse that takes place today.  Their figure again is 90%. .   Adult Protective Services investigates domestic settings.  Since most of us don’t have lawyers or financial advisors living with us at home, my guess is that these culprits have been left out of the equation.

Families obviously do financially abuse elders, often by way of Power of Attorney, but few experts really talk about financial abuse by the larger “protection” industries that surround elders. Those systems sometimes exert more leverage against elders than you’d think.  How about your state?  There are hidden ways in which elders are abused for profit in this country, and you won’t see these described in any MetLife study.
Consider that just in the state of Maryland alone there’s a 6% bed tax that applies to nursing homes.  The healthcare provider applies for and is reimbursed by Medicaid for that tax.   You’d think those funds would then be matched by the state and used to support the elderly who are IN those beds. Not so.  At least 35% of all federal Medicaid funds received in Maryland for the purpose of supporting nursing homes can be diverted for other purposes by using a process called IGTs, or “intergovernmental transfers” which enable this practice.  Many states use the same tactics as Maryland, and some states don’t properly match federal Medicaid dollars with state funds. This problem slips by, unnoticed due to the underhanded tactics using Intergovernmental Transfers.  California raised 3 billion in hospital bed taxes in 2013, and only 40 million went to hospitals. (Daniel L. Hatcher, The Poverty Industry, p. 140-142, New York University Press, 2016} The sad part is that one of the richest states, Maryland, receives the same score as one of the poorest states—Mississippi–when it comes to Nursing Home Quality of care.  That score is a big fat D!  (Ibid. p. 140}   The strategy used by state IGTs to fill the general state coffers basically steals money from the infirm and elderly,  leaving them to suffer, drugged to ease the pain caused by deadly bedsores, broken bones, lack of care, and financial fleecing.  This, I’m sure also applies to fleecing the mentally ill, disabled, children in the foster care system, and prisoners.
What’s happening in U.S. nursing homes due to funds not been used as they should be–to increase staffing –is FAR more egregious than kids fleecing Granny, as awful as that situation is.  Think BILLIONS of federal dollars being siphoned away from care of the elderly. Yet a Granny at home being fleeced for a few thousand dollars might command far more attention by AARP who targets elders as customers for insurance.  I’m not saying family abuse doesn’t exist.  Of course it does and it’s a horrific problem.
Families, though, are often considered the enemy by those who are in the protection industry, yet in many of the financial abuse cases involving family, the state courts and the people who systematically work in those courts use family financial abuse cases to “save” elders by deeming them incapacitated, and changing their lives forever—

This process can take place in 15 minutes behind the closed doors without the victim being present.

The elder, declared to be in an “emergency” situation (hearsay is acceptable—there are no high standards for evidence) is officially stripped of fundamental rights then put under the care of a professional for-profit individual guardian or company who then charges outrageous unaudited fees to the elder’s estate.  Victims can’t do a thing about it because now have no rights. (If you would like to read how this system works, here are 450 documented cases. )  Without fundamental rights to make decisions (Granny has lost the right to hire an attorney, and her family has “lost legal standing”) she can be held in place like a bug pinned to a wall.  She is usually drugged in a nursing facility after the guardian sells her home and belongings to ensure a nice paycheck for “services.”  The family is completely shut out in many cases.
For decades, families of victims have complained about this removal of rights for profit. I receive hundreds of complaints on my facebook page, www.facebook.com/boomersbeware.  State and county courts are using gag orders to keep families of victims quiet.  Meanwhile, guardians and/or conservators with complete control over these elders, fleece their estates without accountability or monitoring.   If you still find all of this unbelievable, please read the New Yorker article about it:
The false impression out there blaming families and relatives for 90% of elder abuse means that guardians can protect their own paychecks by maligning families in court, which they often do.   It also means that the public is distracted away from looking at the larger entities abusing the elderly right under our noses.
The Government Accountability Office published a shocking report by the “Director of Health Care—Medicaid and Private Health Insurance Issues,” Kathryn Allen, who had this to say about the breadth of state schemes that abuse the elderly:
“For many years states have used varied financing schemes, sometimes involving IGTs (intergovernmental transfers) to inappropriately increase federal Medicaid matching payments. Some states, for example, receive federal matching funds on the basis of large Medicaid payments to certain providers, such as nursing homes operated by local governments, which greatly exceed established Medicaid rates. In reality, the large payments are often temporary, since states can require the local-government providers to return all or most of the money to the states. States can use these funds—which essentially make a round-trip from the states to providers and back to the states—at their own discretion.”
We’re accusing families, friends and neighbors of causing problems for the aging population when there’s a humungous plot out there to use the elderly as cash cows, and it isn’t caused by family dysfunction.  In fact, the intention of a lot of these organizations seems to be to separate elders from their families in order to make money.
If you still believe that the most likely perpetrator to cause you harm as you age will be one of your own–consider your 401k and who invests it for you.  Are you sure that person or company isn’t stealing from you just like a professional guardian who milks estates by charging outrageous fees?  Think again.   According to the Fiscal Times and many other sources, advisers are prone to be self-dealing (many aren’t fiduciaries required to work in your best interest.)
Citing numerous academic studies, Jason Furman and Betsy Stevenson of the Council of Economic Advisers write that investors lose between $8 billion and $17 billion a year in their investment accounts, money siphoned directly into the pockets of advisers, because of excess fees and lower returns. IRA and 401(k) holders can expect to lose 5 percent to 10 percent of their returns over the life of the account, or 1-3 years’ worth of retirement withdrawals.”     Families are not our biggest worry as we age.   It’s the outsiders we assume are working in our “best interest”–the professionals and government agencies leveraging elders to line their pockets. 
If you consider who exactly is telling you about the top scams against elders, don’t be surprised if you find out that THEY are the scammers.   Organizations who provide a “helping hand” to families figuring out which facilities are the best for an elder (A Place for Mom, for example) are incentivized to choose the homes that pay them the biggest commissions—not unlike brokers who recommend stocks that aren’t great but will earn them the biggest commissions.  Yet these are often the very same people who are constantly warning about scams.
If you google “profit from the elderly,” you’ll find—what’s this? –An investment advisor recommending stocks of companies that will capitalize on the needs of the growing Baby Boomer population.  One of the stocks recommended is a corporation that is basically an assisted- living franchise.
“Occupancy rates and pricing are rising, which is driving operating leverage. Meanwhile, new construction in the sector is at historically low levels despite growth in the target age group. Currently, there is only enough specialized accommodation for 1.9 million people of the 12 million who are over 80.  The recovering US housing market is increasing the prosperity of elderly property owners, many of whom have paid off their mortgages, making them better able to afford specialized housing. In addition to this demand, we believe there is value in the large real-estate portfolio.” 
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?  If you stop and think about it, though, the company’s bottom line is all about maximizing profits. That’s true for all corporately owned nursing homes.  Are the elders living in these places short-changed on their care?   Many companies reduce staff –to- patient ratios to make money and they are more than willing to sacrifice quality of care if they can squeeze more profits out of the homes they own.  I have not looked at the profits vs. expenditures of the particular company in question, but I am not at all surprised to find a ton of scathing reviews on a consumer affairs website.
Here’s one review that provides a great example of what has gone wrong with elder care institutions today.  Not every home is bad, of course, but this review is symptomatic of a common trend among many nursing homes–and the trend towards short-staffing is too great to ignore.
 “Terrible Service in Gilbert, AZ – My mother was there for six weeks while I had to advocate for her basic needs from the beginning. She was neglected and incurred severe bedsores from being left to sit alone in her room all day and not receiving any assistance to change her depends. I was lied to upon admitting her and lied to every time I had to ask for them to do their job. This place is terribly disorganized and most of the staff do not care.  Items were stolen from my mother’s room by a staff worker just before leaving and the new director didn’t even follow up on it to get her items returned. This facility has a bad reputation in the area for mistreating their residents and neglecting their care.” Nursing homes are mistreating elders on a national scale partially due to Medicaid funds diverted away by the states from those who are supposedly being served.
So what organizations can we REALLY trust?  One of the most prominent sources of news on the latest elder scams is AARP, which is considered non-profit.  You’ll see hundreds of helpful articles about the latest threats to seniors.  However, as Forbes points out, “AARP isn’t your every-day citizens’ advocacy group. The AARP is also one of the largest private health insurers in America. In 2011, the AARP generated $458 million in royalty fees from so-called “Medigap” plans, nearly twice the $266 million the lobby receives in membership dues.”  Who do you think is being sold this insurance?
Conflicts of interest exist in nearly every effort to “help” elders because for profit businesses have been invited to the party, and they are taking advantage. . Ok, I’ll admit that I’m 68 and worry about these things.  I accept the general idea that I’ll be more likely to trust the wrong people as I age, and I’m aware of that.  We all lose some of our intellectual capacity at some point.
The claim that families are most responsible for abusing elders is familiar to all of us.  HELLO.  What about entire companies built to rip off elders while warning that family members and close friends are the enemy?
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Resources:
Many elderly rely entirely on family or other trusted individuals to help them. Whether it is physiological or psychological, as people grow older they tend to need guidance and support.

 

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