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Elderly Accountholder Concerns

We have an elderly customer who has a savings account with a fair amount of money in it. She must have Alzheimer's or some kind of mental problem and is very confused all of the time. She never makes any sense in her requests. In fact, her latest request is that we find her a house with water. (We believe she may have even had her water cut off at her home due to delinquent payments, but we don't know.) She brought in numerous social security checks the other day that she has been "saving". They were over a year old, so we sent them to social security and they are supposed to re-issue her new ones. She refuses to have her checks direct deposited and she doesn't want anybody to know her "business". A daughter brings her to the bank, but always waits for her in the car. What should we do about this situation? Try and talk to the daughter? We think she needs a guardian or power of attorney. We don't really have any right to say a whole lot to anyone, but we are concerned for her well-being.

Answer by Dana Turner

To my knowledge, every county and state maintains a Council on Aging office. Placing an anonymous call to this agency may prompt someone to inquire into your customer's welfare. A similar call to the Public Guardian's Office (usually located within the District Attorney's Office) may also yield some positive results. Another resource is your local law enforcement agency, who can dispatch an officer to "check the welfare" of any person.

But be careful about honoring privacy issues.


Answer by Ken Golliher

As Dana indicates, aside from privacy concerns, this is largely an issue of state law. I would note that, due to the prevalence of caller ID in government agencies, an "anonymous" call should not be made from the bank.

Many states have given banks some guidance in this area, so look at your statutes. In my home state, banks are allowed to contact state agencies regarding the elderly. In Florida, they are required to. However, in both cases I believe the trigger is "financial abuse." That's not what you are talking about here, but you could certainly say the potential for financial abuse exists in your situation.

Talking to the daughter is probably the best approach, but results might be better assured if, as Dana suggests, you get someone from law enforcement to investigate and let them do it. As a former trust officer, I know how hard it is for some children to acknowledge their parents' infirmities. As the child is likely to be "blamed" for any curtailment of the parent's freedom, dealing with those infirmities is even more difficult.

First published on 12/2/02

First published on 12/02/2002

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