A Milwaukee woman walked away from felony charges with no punishment — other than a tarnished reputation — after she allegedly pilfered thousands of dollars from the 83-year-old woman she was hired to care for. The court dropped the case against the accused woman because her client’s increased dementia made her unable to testify.
Dishonest Caregiver Allegedly Steals $17K From Elderly Client
Visiting Angels, a respected and independently-owned home care franchise, sent the Milwaukee woman to a Greendale apartment in September 2016 to help the elderly resident with general living support.
Police state that the same month the woman began caring for the elderly woman, there was a significant increase in spending and cash withdrawals on her debit card.
Walmart surveillance videos show the caregiver filling her cart with everything from Gatorade and Easter candy to laundry soap and DVD’s — and then using the elderly woman’s card to pay for it.
Aged Client Did Not Authorize Helper’s Personal Spending
Police began their investigation in the summer of 2018, at which time the elderly woman was still fully lucid. When asked by police how she felt about the money being taken out of her account, she answered, “I don’t like it.”
“She was able to answer questions very clearly,” said Captain Craig Liermann of the Franklin Police Department.
Unfortunately, by the time the 18-month long investigation concluded, the aged woman’s mental clarity had diminished to such a degree she was no longer competent to testify against her caregiver-turned-thief.
Police learned that after only four months into the working arrangement, the client asked her caregiver to become her power of attorney (POA), giving her complete control over all her finances.
A few months later, the elderly woman was moved from her apartment to a nursing facility with the expectation that her caregiver would use her money to pay the monthly bills for her care.
By April 2018, the woman was 10 months behind in payments and owed nearly $8,000 to Lake Pointe Manor in Franklin.
“She clearly established a relationship, developed a trust, and then took advantage of that trust,” said Liermann.
Visiting Angels’ policy prohibits their workers from becoming POA’s for clients. They terminated the dishonest caregiver but stated it was for a different reason.
Meanwhile, she kept the elderly woman’s debit card, her position as POA, and continued helping herself to the helpless client’s life savings.
Unethical Caregivers Prey on the Elderly
“Financial exploitation is a crime of opportunity and greed,” said Doreen Goetsch, coordinator of Adult Protective Services (APS) for the Wisconsin Department of Health.
Goetsch reports that of the 9,000 elder abuse calls they received in one year, 20% of those calls involve some form of financial abuse or exploitation.
This case is not isolated according to Goetsch, listing other cases she’s had jurisdiction over:
- A caregiver stole rings from a dementia patient in West Allis.
- Another caregiver in Burlington filled garbage bags with the residents’ valuables.
- A group home worker repeatedly pressured one of the residents for money in Racine.
- An assisted living worker found a client’s credit card on the floor and stole it.
Prosecution was the result in these cases, unlike the aforementioned dishonest caregiver who got off ironically for the very reason she was needed in the first place — to help an elderly person in decline.
In Wisconsin and most other states, personal care workers require no state licensing so, therefore, are not tracked or regulated. In turn, unethical caregivers can easily find another job as a personal care worker in most cases.
The Department of Health Services recommends family, friends, and neighbors keep an eye on these caregiving relations and register for email or text notifications whenever there is an account withdrawal from an elderly loved one’s account.
If you suspect elder neglect, abuse, or exploitation, contact your local police, APS representative, and ombudsman.