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You can protect yourself from elder abuse

A friend of ours tells us her parents have not locked their doors for decades. They don't even know where the keys are. Why should they?

They have never had a problem, they explain -- after all, they live in a rural part of Ohio, where their closest neighbor is a couple of miles away They have dogs, but they are not watch dogs. If they lock the windows, it is only to keep the wind from whistling. They just have faith that they are safe from harm.

If they lived in the city, things would probably be different. They would have locks on their doors, and they would lock their windows or put stoppers in to keep them from opening too far. They might have a security system that would alert them to an intruder at night and notify the police or fire department if there were any trouble.

In short, they would protect themselves.

As we get older, we join a demographic group that is especially vulnerable to abuse, especially financial abuse. We can protect ourselves, though, by taking a few simple steps. Elder advocates suggest the following:

  • Request that retirement fund disbursements, pensions and other regular income be deposited directly into your checking or savings account
  • Prepare a durable power of attorney
  • Do not sign any documents that you do not completely understand
  • Do not believe someone who promises to keep you out of a nursing home in exchange for cash or property, whether from you now or from your estate after you die
  • Try not to put all of your care in the hands of family members; keep in touch with friends and religious or social organizations

As difficult as it is to admit, no one is entirely safe from financial misdeeds. And, in some instances, we can be our own worst enemies. We can lose track of bills, and we can trust the wrong people. We can be more vulnerable than we want to admit. Ohio's civil and criminal laws protect us, but only after we have suffered some harm. We should think about locking the doors and windows before someone breaks in.

If you suspect you or someone you know is the victim of abuse, contact your county's Department of Job and Family Services.

If you need help with a durable power of attorney or other estate planning tool that will protect your assets, you should consult with an attorney.

Source: Ohio Legal Services, "Domestic Violence: Adult Protective Services FAQ," accessed Dec. 2, 2015

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