Last week I was telling you about Sue, who called about her 90 year old aunt, Amelia. Amelia had hired a home health aide through what she thought was a home health agency. Sue recently learned that the aide had taken Amelia to an attorney who prepared legal documents designating the aide as her agent under power of attorney, health care representative and executor of her will.
What can or should Sue do? Amelia won’t show her the documents or tell her anything more. Amelia wants Sue to leave it alone. Sue asked me about guardianship. That’s a tough call. Is Amelia incompetent or simply exercising poor judgment? Everyone has the right to make bad decisions. I told Sue that based on what I was hearing, it is very likely that an attempt to declare Amelia incompetent will fail. It probably will only serve to make Amelia angry and cause her to push Sue away.
That’s not so say that in a month or 6 months or a year, that Amelia’s mental state won’t deteriorate to the point that a guardianship may then work. But, who knows whether the aide will have taken all Amelia’s money by then.
Let’s go back to the home health “agency”. They have completely walked away from any responsibility. They were paid $6000 to find Amelia this aide. If the aide turns out to be a thief or worse don’t they have any liability?
I suggested to Sue that she get a copy of the contract that Amelia signed with that agency. If she can’t get it, then she should be able to get a sample contract from the agency. She should then consider hiring an attorney to contact the agency. If they put the aide in Amelia’s home and that aide commits elder abuse or worse, they could be responsible on a theory of negligence. An experienced litigation attorney could help Sue.
Another alternative is to contact the police to determine if they will investigate the possibility of elder fraud or abuse. If they can’t take action, another option would be to hire a private investigator or contact Adult Protective Services. That just might drive the aide away.
Finally, Sue could decide to do nothing. Her aunt isn’t making it easy to help and wants to be left alone. However, if she chooses that option and the aide moves on to another victim after taking Amelia’s savings, it will be even more difficult to help. At that point, Amelia could be out of money which could limit Sue’s options.
I gave Sue a lot to think over. For the rest of us there is an important lesson. Be careful who you invite into your home and be careful who you hire. Sue thought Amelia hired a home health agency that would stand behind their promise to find a reputable aide to care for Amelia. That did not turn out to be the case and now Sue has a real dilemma – watch her aunt from afar and hope everything turns out OK or try to step in before any more damage is done.