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Copyright 2010 Chandan Sen
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ELDER FRAUD

or

A FORM OF SYMBIOSIS?

by

Chandan Sen

_____________________________________________

The other day there was a program on TV on what is commonly called Elder Fraud. As people age, they can gradually lose the ability to look after themselves. This makes them dependent on other people and also makes them vulnerable to all sorts of financial abuse. This, in a nutshell, is what elder fraud is all about.

As my parents aged, I felt the need to be with them, especially as my mother felt vulnerable in old age. I was able to do my filial duty by her, by the grace of God, and she passed away in Calcutta in 1998. This left me free to return to the US, because my Dad felt quite capable of looking after himself. But around 2003 or so he began to show signs of senility, and my sister and brother in law, who were subsidizing him, asked a neighborhood young woman to keep an eye on him, in exchange for an agreed monthly stipend.

Initially things worked out quite well. The woman, whom I shall call Champa, came for a few hours every evening to put up his mosquito net, set the table in preparation for his dinner, and keep him company. He greatly appreciated this, and became rather attached to Champa. But as luck would have it, she started taking extra money from him. Starting with small amounts, the amount she took from him gradually increased till he used to fall short every month-end.

Let me add here that there was another person who came in to cook and clean for Dad. But she left in the late afternoon, which meant that Dad was all alone till Champa arrived. In the classic case of elder fraud, the old person never complains, perhaps because he or she is very grateful for whatever service the caregiver is providing. In Dad’s case also, he was giving Champa expensive gifts like cell-phones, and she had no compunctions in accepting them because, as she told us, he had convinced her that the money was all his in the first place, which was simply not true!

Then my cousin, Gautam, stepped into the picture. He offered to take charge of financial matters and come to see Dad as often as was possible. Things became much better, and Champa realized that the money actually came from my sister, and was not really Dad’s to give away!

In 2008, at the ripe old age of 93, my Dad passed away, peacefully, in his sleep. The curtain came down on an important part of our lives, and the grand old man was mourned by one and all.