Problem #3: Dad keeps giving his caregiver and caregiver's family money for work that's never done.
What happens: Your dad's caregiver offers to help him get repairs made around the house and brings in her cousin Ned to do the work. Your dad pays his caregiver and Ned to purchase materials and supplies or as an "advance" on the work, which then never seems to be completed. Before you know it, Ned always seems to be around, and Dad seems more and more dependent on him.
What to watch for: Look for signs that the situation is developing into a pattern. It's important to distinguish between a one-time event or infrequent request and a situation that appears to be a pattern of behavior, one that's likely to escalate, experts say. Pay attention to transparency; does your parent know the full name of the person offering to do the work, and does he have any way to reach him directly?
What to say: Start by treating the situation as legitimate, and ask your parent for the worker's contact information. You might say, "Dad, I just want to make sure Ned understands exactly what we want him to do. Did he give you a business card?" You could also ask your parent if the workman provided an estimate of the work to be done -- and, if not, explain that you're going to call to get that information.
What to do: Let the caregiver know you're aware of what's happening and that access to your parent's money won't be so easy from now on. If you live in the area, be there the next time the workman is coming over to "work," and ask for identification and a contract. Often in these situations, if a scammer realizes a family member is becoming involved, he or she will fade away.
Meanwhile, if the caregiver was hired through an agency, notify the agency that the caregiver is referring family members for additional work outside the agency -- likely a violation of the company's policy. If the caregiver was hired independently, you're on your own. As the employer, though, you can stipulate what's allowed and what's not. If your parent is willing and you haven't already done so, write up a simple contract covering the work to be performed, and include a clause that the caregiver is not to bring in or "subcontract" work to other people.
With or without your dad's cooperation, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. Its staff is on the alert for local scams and frauds and can offer assistance. Start by talking to your dad and suggesting he make the call; Ann Cason, a caregiving consultant and author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders, notes that many older adults caught up in these kinds of situations are embarrassed and are often more comfortable talking to an outsider than to a family member.