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   Romance - the Down Side

Recently, a scam artists bilked an 89 year old man out of thirty thousand dollars. Of course, this type of thing happens all the time, right? But there was something especially heinous about this story: the scammer was the man’s caregiver.

Here’s the recent story:
An assisted-living aide who tried to start a relationship with an 89-year-old resident then bilked him of nearly $30,000 was sentenced to 18-months in prison Monday, the Oregon Department of Justice reported. 

Patsy D. Murphy, 58, of Coos Bay started working as an aide at Heritage Place Assisted Living Facility in Bandon in May 2009, said Tony Green, a police spokesman. She soon learned that an elderly man in her care had money at his disposal, and tried to start a romantic relationship with him. 

The victim, who was not identified, gave Murphy $28,250 to buy a new 2010 Toyota Camry that she was supposed to put in his name then use to drive him around. Instead, Murphy put the car in her own name, told others that her son had bought it for her, then hid the car for about a month. She later sold the car and kept the proceeds. 

Murphy disappeared as soon as the elderly man cut her the check.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Ballard, who prosecuted Murphy, told the court that Murphy also took advantage of two other men at another assisted living home in Coos Bay last year. She received a negligee from one man and married the other. 

Murphy had pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to first-degree criminal mistreatment of an elderly person and aggravated theft. In addition to her prison term, she was ordered to pay 28,500 in restitution. 
In this case, the caregiver was a woman who pretended to cozy up to the wealthy man and start a romance. She was 58 years old. As he grew to trust her, he asked her to go buy a new car for him, which she could drive him around in. So he gave her the money. Thirty grand.

She bought the car, all right! She bought it, and put it in her name…

Thankfully, this time, the woman did not get away with it. She was arrested, tried and convicted for her fraud, and she even has to pay the money back in restitution. Justice has happened!

But the issue raises a larger issue in my mind: How do you choose a caregiver that you can trust? After all, this story took place in an Oregon assisted living home, but seniors who get home health care from an agency or an individual are far more vulnerable, even. When a person begins to get to know them, to understand how they operate, they could be very easy prey for a scam artist. It could happen through a false romance, but more likely, it could happen in far more subtle ways. A credit card disappearing. Old jewelry, lying around, is suddenly gone. Or it could happen in the most drastic ways of all: the caregiver winds up in the will of the senior, receiving lavish gifts. And the family can do nothing.

With this in mind, we need to be exploring how we as family members can protect the ones we love when choosing a caregiver. That discussion has to move far beyond protecting from fraud. We need to look at how to find a person that will encourage your loved one. Someone who can really be able to relate to them. Not someone with a private agenda.