When the Child Becomes the Parent


There can be a crossroads in life when the child becomes the parent and must become the guardian of safety and provider of security. It often happens to people in their 60’s who are fortunate to have elderly parents, but with those extra years together comes the discovery of a role reversal that aging sometimes requires.

Rachel Portnoy, a Community Engagement Specialist for Adult Protective Services in Houston, says there are many red flags to watch out for, but the people who prey on the elderly come under two general headings: family and fraudsters.

She says one thing to watch for is sudden interest by a relative. “It could be a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, a cousin, that all of a sudden takes an interest and moves in to take care of them,” she cautions. They might suggest a title or property be transferred to their name, or recommend taking over a checking account, or investment portfolio. It’s a common occurrence for elderly people to be victimized by someone within their own family who sees opportunity.

Another is out and out scammers who target the elderly. Portnoy suggests recommending that elderly people refrain from answering a call if they don’t recognize the number. Banks, social security, Medicare and Publisher’s Clearing House won’t call and require financial details over the phone, but someone who is alone all the time may enjoy the attention and conversation on the phone, and unwittingly provide the keys to their life savings. One of the primary safeguards for financial security for the elderly may be your investment of time and care.

“Make sure you are giving your loved one support by spending time with them. When someone is isolated and lonely is when they are vulnerable to all these scam,” advises Portnoy.

The transition from looking up to your parents to looking out for them is fraught with landmines and difficult conversations, but it has become an increasingly familiar journey more people are taking. The number of individuals in their 60’s caring for elderly parents has more than doubled in the past 20 years.


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