My widowed mother had forged a full, productive life for herself, since my father’s death 25 years ago. She travelled extensively, kept physically active and prided herself in playing a competitive game of duplicate bridge. She had always been fiercely independent, caring for her own home and garden.
Although my sister and I lived a distance from my mother, we were both content with the fact that she had a strong social support system. Her phone calls were peppered with meals she was preparing, the bridge parties she was hosting and the local gossip. We were assured that all was well and life went on.
Superficial observations can fool or cajole long distance caregivers into false security. When visiting, we found our mother
well-groomed, the house tidy and the refrigerator full. However, the changes were subtle. In spite of her professed cooking skills, she was losing weight. She became gradually suspicious, secretive and argumentative. Our mother was in
the early stages of dementia.
This sudden jolt of reality caught us unprepared. With time, her phone calls became punctuated with delusional stories of “being the only person in Canada working for this company” . . .or “would we attend this reception where she is to
receive her winnings of $million.” We knew we had to become more actively involved.
Our mother was the victim of a Prize and Lottery fraud scheme. Her impaired judgment had allowed her to fall prey to these “get rich quick schemes.” On a thorough search of the house, we found bundles of answered prize entries and boxes of
cheap gift items in closets and under the beds.
After seeking legal counsel, we accessed our mother’s bank and credit card accounts. Her prize contest investments were out-weighing her income. She had a large credit card bill, on which she was paying a high interest rate. We had missed the signs or had chosen not to accept our mother’s diminishing abilities.
Statistics from the Competition Bureau show that almost 15,000 mass marketing fraud complaints are received from Canadians every year. This is fraud by mail, telephone, and internet. An informative resource to alert you to the current reported frauds is Fraudcast http://www.fraudcast.ca/ , which hosts a Fraud Library, Hannaford’s Blog and podcasts of the latest fraud alerts. In Craig Hannaford’s Blog, a retired RCMP officer, he stresses the vulnerability of seniors. He also states that if your family member falls victim to a fraudster, you should assist them in reporting it to the local law enforcement and contact Canadian Phonebusters http://www.phonebusters.com
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Caring with Karen