Unfortunately, this blog could be devoted almost exclusively to news articles featuring abuse of an elderly person by strangers, friends, neighbors, or relatives. With the general aging of the baby boom generation, such situations will only become more common over the next several decades.
This article from N. Carolina highlights a scenario that is all too common in Texas as well:
Power of attorney
As in many cases, Anne Mills' troubles began after she gave a neighbor power of attorney -- authority to pay her bills, withdraw money from her bank account, even sell her property.Her daughter, Mary Anne Mills, suspected something was wrong when the collection agency for her mom's Charlotte nursing home telephoned in 2005 to say her mother owed thousands.
Mary Anne Mills lives in Wilmington. In recent years, she'd fretted as her mother's health deteriorated, but says her mother declined her efforts to help. A retired school system administrator, "she was very independent. She wanted to stay in her home that she'd lived in for over 50 years."
When diabetes and other health problems forced a hospitalization in 2004, Mary Anne Mills asked a professional to evaluate her mom's competency.
Her mother's mental state was deteriorating. She couldn't take her medicine correctly or bathe or dress herself, and she refused in-home help, Mary Anne Mills says. Still, the psychologist found her competent. At that point, "there was nothing I could do to make a difference, because she wouldn't allow it."
A few months later, the woman who'd never let her daughter handle her finances signed a document giving power of attorney to a neighbor who befriended her and helped her with her needs, her daughter says. That document allowed the neighbor, Ben Cline, to spend her money on her behalf, county officials say.
In 2005, Cline sold Anne Mills' east Charlotte house for $150,000. Now, he's charged with embezzling $56,000 of the profits. Contacted by the Observer, Cline declined comment on the charge.
And as far as Mary Anne Mills knows, everything in her childhood home, right down to family photos and memorabilia, is gone. "It's like I had to pretend my family home was struck by a tornado."
The article mentions how these cases are often not prosecuted criminally. I expect that to change as society becomes more aware of the level of theft involved with abuse of the elderly via power of attorney.
Even if the local DA won't prosecute, a civil litigation attorney can seek financial recovery on behalf of the victim and her heirs. A holder of a power of attorney owes a fiduciary duty to the principal and is obligated to provide an accounting of all funds spent.