In Home Care Worker Charged in Financial Exploitation of Elderly Cancer Patient
Written by NHAbuseGuide on September 27, 2015
An elderly cancer patient has obtained some semblance of justice with the conviction of a former caretaker, Sherry Walters. Walters, according to investigators in Autauga County, stole the eighty-two year old cancer patient’s identity and then engaged in a pattern of financial exploitation of the vulnerable, elderly individual, who was additionally a disabled veteran. According to Alabama District Attorneys, Walters was originally hired as in-home caretaker for the patient, while he occasionally travelled out of town to seek treatment for his cancerous condition. At a certain point, Walters opted to illegally obtain the elderly patient’s personal identifying information and enrich herself via financially exploiting her access to the patient’s personal information by way of her position of trust. Now, Walters faces a prolonged period of community monitoring and faced substantial fines, including a court mandate to pay restitution to the elderly victim.
In light of the incident, as well as several other high profile cases entailing financial exploitation of the elderly, the Alabama Nursing Home Association made statements concerning the reality facing elderly patients requiring assisted living. Specifically, in-home care presents a problematic situation to observe and report abuse in that care only involves a single individual, whereas residential facilities will have layers of staff tasked with caring for a single individual, thus increasing the likelihood of detecting any ongoing abuse situation. Moreover, the Association noted that reporting and pursuing cases of suspected elder abuse is much more possible with states across the nation electing to adopt statutes specifically pertaining the abuse of elderly, dependent adults, or vulnerable adult populations in light of what officials have gradually recognized as a national problem both inside and outside of nursing home care facilities. In Alabama, the most recent statutes include the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act, which alongside public awareness campaigns from government and non-government actors, has led to an increased interest in preventing elder abuse across the state.
According to Alabama officials, the most commonly prosecuted form of elder abuse generally relates to financial exploitation of the elderly by a person of trust, which occasionally can prove to be a relative or individual close to the elderly person. However, instances of in-home caretakers financially exploiting elderly nursing care patients in Alabama is also common, with seven cases leading to prosecution in Montgomery County alone this year. Officials have offered the following advice to relatives or loved ones seeking in-home caretakers including:
- Contract services via a reputable in-home care company, including personally vetting the references and conducting a criminal background check on any proposed in-home employees
- Ensuring that the caretaker is unaware of the financial situation of the elderly patient, including restricting access to any financial or identity documents in the home
- Be highly suspicious should the caretaker mention personal financial needs or concerns to the elderly individual
For more information on Alabama’s laws regarding elder abuse, consult with an attorney alongside the references found below.