Adult Protective Services

Learn about the warning signs of financial exploitation by a family caregiver and the steps you can take to protect your aging parent, including seeking legal advice and reporting suspicions to Adult Protective Services.

Adult Protective Services
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson / Unsplash


Adult protective service does not believe me when I report my sister POA exploiting my mother's money and properties .They say they need proof. I don't have access to moms investment accounts or banking accounts. Why won't they get the information from the banks.



Donna, you are not the first person, nor will you be the last, to express frustration and concern over a family member being exploited by a family caregiver. It happens more than you know.

There are different laws for different states. Some Adult Protective Services will investigate anonymous sources and never disclose where the complaint came from.  Other states require that you provide proof before they consider an investigation.

It’s a double-edged sword. There are many family caregivers that are falsely accused by uninvolved family members.

Your aging family member has given power of attorney for health care and finance to another family member. One that they trust. Sadly, I see this trust abused all the time.

It is only after the finances are gone and the aging senior needs more care that this abuse may be exposed.

I was surprised to learn that 60% of the substantiated Adult Protective Services cases of financial abuse involved an adult child.

There are many signs that you family member is take advantage of your aging senior.

These include:

Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, even if small

  • Checks signed during a time when your parent is physically or mentally unable to write them
  • Change in attorneys or banks, that was unplanned
  • Unexpected changes in a family trust or an established estate plan
  • Expensive gifts given to others outside the family cirlce
  • Parent’s financial needs are not met. Even when there should be financial resources to meet these

Here are the steps to take to protect your parents from an unscrupulous family member:

Situations, where an adult child is stealing from a parent, are complicated. I recommend that you seek legal advice from a probate attorney. This will help you understand the documentation you’re going to need. They can also explain how to go about collecting evidence of this financial abuse.

If you have a family attorney, you may consider having them give you guidance.  They can recommend if you have grounds to seek obtaining a legal power of attorney.

If you are in disagreement with your siblings, it may be in the best interest of everyone to consider having a family friend or trusted lawyer takes this role and to avoid more family drama.

Along with the legal power of attorney, I recommend you consider seeking health care power of attorney, as well.   This gives you the power to make medical decisions on behalf of your aging family member, when they are no longer able to express them to health care providers.

An example that comes to mind is having a parent on life support. As a nurse, I have seen aging family members kept on life support long beyond the time they should be on. There comes a time when the body shuts down and the life support does not cure, on extend pain and suffering with no quality of life expectation.

Sadly, there are times when this is because of financial reasons.

The other extreme is the greedy sibling that stops all life support for an inheritance.

Of course, If you have a solid reason to suspect that your sibling is stealing, report those suspicions to your local Adult Protective Services. Depending on the state, and the information you have or have not provided, they may do an investigation.

In your case, APS did not investigation.

Another option for you to consider is to petition the court for guardianship of your parents. This isn’t easy to achieve. You must be able to prove that your parent is incapable of handling affairs independently.

Most courts are slow to grant this protection. It takes away your parent’s independence.

However, if you have medical evidence that your parent needs guardianship, combined with any evidence of financial abuse, then discuss this option to your attorney

Thank you so much for bringing this topic to light. It is an issue many face with an aging family member.

-Diane Carbo, RN