Question: Our aunt died six months ago and we helped organise an agency caregiver mainly for company for our grieving uncle. She is exceptionally kind. Our uncle loves her and now wants to sort out all her financial problems. How can we help them both to establish some boundaries? Our uncle is in his 90s and desperately needs loving. He is very kind but he is also not allowing other care givers as he is becoming too attached. We fear this will cause problems long term for his care.
Dr. Amy: It is natural and understandable for your uncle to develop an emotional attachment to his caregiver, given the circumstances. As you say, he is now alone and she is very kind to him. When two people get along and spend hours at a time together in a personal setting, bonds of affection can form.
That said, it is not appropriate for the caregiver to accept a large gift from your uncle. For this reason, many agencies have policies that prohibit caregivers from accepting gifts from clients.
You have not mentioned whether the caregiver has agreed to take money from your uncle. It may be that she has no intention of doing so. Most caregivers are honest and trustworthy. At the same time, elder financial abuse is a big issue. According to a 2009 study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, as many as one million older Americans may be targeted yearly, at an annual cost of almost $3 billion.
I encourage you to call the agency to discuss the situation. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, you can also report this to the appropriate authorities. In the United States, call Adult Protective services. In the United Kingdom, you can start by calling the elder abuse Help line at 080 8808 8141.
If there is no policy regarding gifts and if your uncle is cognitively intact, he has every right to do as he wishes with his money. Assuming he is able to make decisions with an unimpaired intellect, you might raise the matter with him, gently, and share your concerns. It’s important to be clear what your motivation is. Naturally, you want to make sure that he has the best care possible, now and in the future. Good luck!