Protect aging parents and elderly from acquaintance theft

Photo of Bank of America ATM Machine by Brian ...

Accompany elderly parent, especially those showing signs of memory loss, to the bank or limit access to debit and credit cards. Photo by Brian Katt,

During a recent walk around their neighborhood my sister-in-law’s mother and her  home health aide made an unscheduled stop at the bank to withdraw $300.

When they returned the home attendant told my sister-in-law that her mother had gotten away from her and when she saw the elderly woman again she was coming from the direction of the bank.

Although my sister-in-law’s mother is approaching 80-years old, her physical health is good.  But she is not swift enough to elude a home health care attendant who is trained to keep watch over an Alzheimer’s patient prone to wondering. While the incident disturbed my sister-in-law, she didn’t make a big deal about it because the home health aide was a substitute visiting for one weekend and because her mother had no bank card or identification with her  to allow her to withdraw funds.   Or so she thought.

The following Monday when checking her bank balances my sister-in-law noticed the withdrawal and questioned her mother.  She didn’t remember withdrawing the money and my sister-in-law didn’t find it among her things.  So she visited the bank and the branch manager said her mother came in with a woman to withdraw the money.

Even though her mother had no identification with her the branch manager authorized the withdrawal because he recognized her as a long time customer making a withdrawal she had been known to make every month until just a few months earlier.

My sister-in-law reported the incident to the agency that sent the aide and once confronted by her supervisor and made aware that camera footage was available, she confessed that she went with her mother to the bank.  She never admitted to taking the money because the teller gave the money to my sister-in-laws mother who left the bank with it.

But is a reminder of how senior citizens can become victims of acquaintance theft, which is a form of elder abuse. It has been my experience that most home aides are honest people and look out for their clients. But some do take advantage of their client’s ailments.

If your parents suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia or any disability that impairs their memory, sight or hearing, you should take extra precautions to protect their finances.  For example you can:

  •   Set up a joint banking account so you can pay their bills and keep track of their funds.
  • Set up email alerts so that any withdrawal from the account triggers automatic text or email notification to you.
  • Limit balances on your parents debit and credit cards (My mom doesn’t have either), or withhold them altogether.
  • If your parent prefers to bank at a specific branch, become acquainted with the tellers and branch managers and ask them to notify you if she visits the bank without you or someone you’ve authorized to aid her.

Was this information helpful?  If you have other suggestions to help seniors avoid acquaintance theft leave a comment. If you have a question about senior care, being a caregiver or want advice about how to maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse and children while caring for a parent, email me at

I'm a working wife and mom who takes care of an aging parent. Only I began doing it full-time, in my home, when I was in my mid-thirties, single and about to make a career change. Thirteen years later, mom is still living with me and I expect it to be that way until one of us leaves this earth. It hasn't always been easy managing her care. (I've helped my mother recover from surgery, and a major injury that required a nursing home stay, as well as the death of my younger brother after a long illness.) But caring for her has been worth it because I know that my assistance means she enjoys a better quality of life as she ages. I hope the experiences and information that I share will help you manage,with grace, the changes that take place in your life as you assume the responsibility of being your parent's caregiver. If you have a question you think I can answer, please contact me at

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