Homecare Worker as Predator – Part 1 of 2

Well, the dreaded moment came after fourteen years. After more than a decade of having homecare workers parade through the house, it happened. My mom’s most recent homecare worker was discovered to have stolen some of her blank checks and forging her signature. How could this have happened? The homecare agency did a criminal background check. The homecare worker knew I was an attorney. I had a neighbor periodically stop by when the worker was present. I stopped by, too. The agency checked employee time logs and called their clients to make sure the workers showed up and did the job they were hired to do. The Area Agency on Aging contracted with this particular agency, and have their own requirements for agencies to meet. So again…how could this happen! Let me take you on an incredible, unthinkable journey of my discoveries since this fateful day…

It’s a wonder that the problem was even detected—this alone makes me shudder. Since the implementation of a new federal law (cashed checks are no longer returned to customer), detecting forged checks will become even harder. Anyway, when I balance a checkbook I just look at the statement—not the cashed checks. Stephanie, whom I’ve hired to pay my mom’s bills (I have to sign the checks) spotted a check (she actually looked through the cashed checks) written out to someone that didn’t match her knowledge of my mom’s regular bills. She asked me. I had no idea who the woman was to whom the check was written. Further, the notation on the memo line made no sense: “for reimbursement of car deposit.” My mother had just let go of her driver’s license…and now she’s buying a car?! I had my mom look at it. She instantly knew this was not her signature. The crime was spotted.

How did this happen?

The homecare worker (“CB”), had been insistent with my mother that she (CB) would be happy to put away my mom’s laundry…into the drawers where they belong. Little did my mother (nor I for that matter, had I known) surmise that this was a total ruse to gain ostensible, legitimate access to every drawer in my mom’s room. Now I have to tell you that neither my mom nor I ever thought about her blank checks being in the drawer. It’s just one of those things—you don’t think of everything. All other valuables had been secreted away before homecare workers ever landed upon our doorstep (I live with my mom). My checkbooks were secured. I just never thought about my mom’s. CB helped herself to four checks from the middle of the pack. She ultimately was able to forge one of them before I closed the bank account.

So we have the first two morals to the story…(1) hide all valuable tangible personal property, and paper that has value, (2) don’t allow a homecare worker any access to dresser drawers. If you feel you need to purchase a small strongbox for such valuables, do it. It’s a downright shame to have to live this way, but what else to do besides put a granny-cam in every room? Even then, who has the time to watch hours of videotape every day?

Such a crime (larceny from abode, forgery, identity theft) should not have shocked me. I’ve been a geriatric care manager for over a decade, and an elder law attorney for nearly four years-—I know this stuff happens. I read about all the time in professional journals and newsletters. As is not surprising, the malevolent deed takes on new meaning when it happens in your own house…to your own precious mother. If that were not disturbing enough, what followed with the police department left me speechless. I’ll tell you about that next month, along with measures you must take to minimize this fate from ever seeping into your loved-one’s life.

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