Dementia and Exploitation

with Kimberly Harp,

NaviGuide, United Church Homes

This week on Ask a Naviguide, host Mike Hughes chats with Kimberly Hart, one of our NaviGuides at United Church Homes. Mike and Kimberly discuss the risks of exploitation faced by individuals with dementia and how to protect oneself and loved ones from abuse, neglect, and scams. The conversation emphasizes the importance of regular mental health evaluations, advanced directives, the role of adult protective services in investigating cases of exploitation, and more.

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Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • Kimberly’s background with dementia care (2:11)
  • The importance of Adult Protective Services (APS) (4:41)
  • How to protect yourself or a loved one with dementia (8:21)
  • The importance of advanced directives (9:46)
  • Financial exploitation and vulnerability (10:47)
  • Encouraging autonomy and normalcy (15:04)
  • Resources for protection (16:58)
  • Advocating for the vulnerable (17:44)


Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit


Michael Hughes 00:07
Hello, and welcome to Ask a Naviguide, which is as part of the abundant aging podcast series from United Church Homes. I’m Mike your host and on this show, we tackle subjects in aging and family caregiving that can be stressful to work through. And we do this with tips and advice from United Church Homes naviguide team, our NaviGuides have decades of experience helping families work through these issues. And we hope that what we share on the show will help everyone everywhere, age with abundance, or at least lower a little bit of stress. Today, we’re lucky to have our NaviGuide Kimberly with us who will help us understand another subject in this series about dementia and Alzheimer’s. And that’s exploitation and the warning signs that maybe some of the care may be putting themselves into position to be taking advantage of that sort of thing. So always joyful subjects, but very important. But before we get started, I’m going to read this statement that the opinions shared in this podcast are those of same myself and are amazing NaviGuides, and are not meant to get or take the place of clinical legal or other professional advice. So with that being said, Hello, Kimberly.

Kimberly Harp 01:21
Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me.

Michael Hughes 01:24
It’s great to see you again. And, you know, I think it’s right off the bat, I think it’s important to know that well, the risk of exploitation is higher if you have dementia. You know, it’s not inevitable, right, like, everybody that has dementia is not going to be exploited. Right? Correct. Know, that’s the thing, you know, because, you know, I think everyone should know that people generally have your best interests at heart. And, you know, especially you with your experience, working with people that have dementia, and actually, that’s a good point. Can you just kind of remind me where your passion of supporting people with dementia has come from?

Kimberly Harp 02:12
Absolutely. I’m a proud advocate and volunteer community educator with the Alzheimer’s Association, and a very proud service coordinator and navigate guide, working with senior citizens and independent living communities. Yeah. I just love them. You know, they’re like family. Yeah, even though we’re a poor substitute for a real family.

Michael Hughes 02:37
We’re talking about this subject, just because it’s the things that you’ve seen, you know, and well, not common, you’ve probably seen people kind of get put into positions that he normally wouldn’t get into just because of the dementia diagnosis that it does that his stories come to mind.

Kimberly Harp 02:55
Yes, there is one. And the reason it’s so important to go see your doctor. And to continue to have those regular mental health evaluations, exams, just all just to keep track of things and stuff like that is because you want to protect yourself from abuse, neglect and exploitation. There was a situation I ran into one time where one of my residents was just expected to step up to the plate, and assist, you know, as their mother ages and stuff like that. She was in an independent living community. But the family wasn’t taking her regularly to see her doctor to get the things that she needed. So she was just kind of left there flying solo. And when we would inquire, you know, hey, how are you doing? You know, it is 30 degrees out here. What are you doing out here? This hour, you know, you’d show up to work at 7am and see this poor woman and nothing but you know, a little silk 90, and you’re starting to notice some signs that something might not be right. You know, when was the last time somebody bought her a robe or whatever the case may be, and then it progressed, you know, the property manager, hey, she hasn’t paid her rent in the last two months. And so then you start really investigating. And when you do you realize, well, there’s a reason her family hasn’t taken her because they were exploiting her and taking what little bit of Social Security she brought in, and so they didn’t want to have that diagnosis official, because if it was then protective services could step in and get her protection,

Michael Hughes 04:42
right. Is that what happened as a result? I mean, you know, what would you typically do in a situation like that

Kimberly Harp 04:50
you would definitely be the biggest advocate you can be, you know, you call it out but unfortunately without a diagnosis on file, it did take protective services a while to show all the proof, you know, they had to gather all the bank statements that this was happening. We were her only protection and shield during that time frame of investigation that took place. And sadly, it took a medical emergency where she had to be taken to the hospital, and other Joining Forces, other advocates, you know, the hospital workers, social workers and stuff to then contact APs and get them. It took that before something was done, and she was placed in a safe environment.

Michael Hughes 05:35
So APS is an adult protective service, right? Is that something that typically the state runs? Or is that what the government runs? Or how do you find the APS for your area using Google search?

Kimberly Harp 05:53
It’s through the Department of Human Services. And yeah, just googled Department of Human Services or adult protective services, either Google search will take you to your local phone number and agency to call.

Michael Hughes 06:07
Okay, so you call Adult Protective Services, and you say, I think I know someone that’s at risk for this person. I suspect, I mean, I’m not a doctor, but I suspect that they may have some cognitive impairment or dementia. It’s affecting their judgment. I’ve been seeing this, I’ve been seeing that the rents are late , that sort of thing. What are they going to say in response?

Kimberly Harp 06:28
Yeah, so you call and you say, you know, I would like to file a report, open a case, you know, this is the situation, there’s going to be a lot of questions they ask have you be prepared to really tell them everything. So you can get that ball rolling with some assistance. And then what it looks like is one of their case managers will be either calling you within the next, you know, couple of hours, or sending someone out, I do they do send people out to shortly after that call, to meet with the person you’re calling in reference to you just go over all the observations, get the facts, basically, what sort

Michael Hughes 07:06
of facts are would they typically look for, like in your case, you’d say, you know, this person has been, I’ve noticed this person has been wandering outside without proper code, or they’ll rent slaving these are all signals, right?

Kimberly Harp 07:21
facts such as? How well are they keeping their hygiene? You know, are they becoming a danger to themselves? Or have they been robbed of that ability to take care of, you know, proper hygiene? Because they don’t have any soap? How is their nutrition at risk for malnutrition? You know, some of these red flags. And then of course, the detail the further details of you know, okay, let’s look at the bank account. Let’s look at the Food Stamp corps. When was the last time it was used?

Michael Hughes 07:51
Right, goodness, okay, let’s say, you know, and I’ve done a little bit of work here, you know, to I’m not an expert, but if I’m first diagnosed with dementia, and that, aside from being scared, or frightened, what are some of the things that you’ve typically seen people do this that they can do to protect themselves? You know, do they? I mean, I mean, there’s things like advanced directives for your health and find out I mean, that is that I’m on the right track.

Kimberly Harp 08:21
Do advance directives are very important because those ensure your voices and your wishes are being heard and respected, you know, what loved ones and what support system? Are you going to encompass yourself with that? Things, you know, there’s things called Five Wishes, living wills, power of attorneys, guardianship, all those important decisions, and the tricky part with exploitation and dementia, if you do not have those advanced directives in place, and heaven forbid you develop dementia. And one of your children that might be, you know, led astray at the moment or struggling with any kind of substance abuse or just any kind of thing of their own, and they start to assume care of you. It’s very difficult, very difficult for the dementia diagnosis to be proven. Without the support of your family and other advocates. If it’s just done through merely employees in the state. They have to have a lot of proof and significant reason to invade someone’s, you know, privacy like that because there have been some situations where people have called just out of disgruntlement trying to make it seem like that when it wasn’t really the case.

Michael Hughes 09:46
Yeah, there’s checks and balances, I can understand that. So advanced care directive for health. Important to pick someone that is reliable, that you know they have best interest at heart, advanced directives from health, I know that person can make decisions for you for health matters, you can also say, hey, if I’m in the hospital, this person can visit this person can’t visit. And I think there’s also advanced directives for directors for finances and estate planning, that can be set up as well. A lot of the other things, well, some of the other things that I’m noticing here, you know, people, dementia, independence, and my spending power and the pride I have in having money in my pocket and having control over a bank account and things like that. We have ever seen situations where people can just get kind of crazy with money when they do have certain forms of dementia.

Kimberly Harp 10:47
Yes, Mike, unfortunately, one of the signs of dementia is inability to make a budget and manage your money. poor judgment skills, sadly, are involved where people have been easily scammed by a phone call saying they’re your insurance company, you know, you need to pay this right now. People are vulnerable, who have dementia, to those types of calls. And yeah, just Yeah, it’s very sad, the degeneration that takes place. And that’s why it’s very important to have those advanced directives that you are talking about, because they encompass all those wellness dimensions that you want to have a say in, you know, what’s your spiritual preference? How would you like this situation to be handled? What about the medical would you like, you know, a DNR? Do you not want one, you know, just your wishes, are able and your voice to be heard?

Michael Hughes 11:45
Right. And you can also put in things like, you know, I don’t agree to arbitration or other types of things, have you? Yeah. You know, when they’re thinking about control, and dementia, I mean, recall stories about I guess, is aphasia, when it kind of affects the frontal, you know, some forms of dementia lead themselves to sort of weird behavioral things going on, right?

Kimberly Harp 12:11
Yes, that it goes back to the individual person, you know, based on their medical history, some of those other physiological factors going on, because each person, not two people with dementia are the same, you know, it’s still an individualized process that affects each and each person differently, which is why it’s so important to have person centered care.

Michael Hughes 12:35
Yeah. And if we go back and put in son care, at least as I like to think about it, it means that if I need help, or support or hair limitations, I at least feel like I have a sense of control, like I have autonomy with that right?

Kimberly Harp 12:53
Absolutely, and a chance to have some of those beautiful memories relived, because that person centered care is going to know what’s special to me. What are they going to bring up to me that’s going to trigger that wonderful, brief moment of escape from that daily reality?

Michael Hughes 13:11
Yeah. Wow. And thinking about finances and thinking about these, you know, the tendency for the get scammed or how to control advanced directives, or I know that with brokerage accounts, there can be a what we call a trusted contact, and that’s somebody that’s gets alerted to something that is concerning is happening with the account. So for your brokerage account, you can set up a stress to contact and if they see something wonky in terms of your trading activity, or withdrawals or whatever, there’s checks and balances there. I think what’s also really good that I’ve noticed about banks is that when, you know, at least with my parents, if they’re doing a wire transfer or something like that, the bank seems to be in the habit of saying, Do you know what this wire transfer is for? Well, they’re in Canada, at least in Canada, that’s what’s happened? I’m not sure that’s the case, in the States, I don’t think there’s a requirement for banks to do that with checking accounts or with savings accounts. There’s fraud alerts, you can set up, there’s credit monitoring that can be set up for people, right? Yes, you can get those Redash. And

Kimberly Harp 14:22
We advocate for all seniors to do that, not just those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Because people easily, you know, are part of the human condition. I’m 35 and I experience it just accidentally leaving, you know, my keys somewhere that oh, just left them on the top of the car or the debit cards, especially if those debit cards get left or miss being mistaken for an insurance card or something. You had your debit card to the doctor’s office and accidentally left it in the waiting room, you know, just a random example. Having those fraud protection services are definitely a benefit to all seasons of life. Life, but especially those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Michael Hughes 15:04
Right. So there are three credit reporting agencies, I think it’s Experian TransUnion. And the third one, but at least I’ve done this as I set up fraud alerts regularly. I think you have to do it at least once a year or a couple of times a year to redo your fraud. Same thing with Do Not Call Registry is you can set yourself up on a do not call or you can keep track of your fight host or a loved ones FIFO store, if it goes out of spec. Another tip that I’ve heard is that it’s with a person, if you’re taking care of somebody who has dementia, and money’s an issue, it may be good just to actually give them some cash to have to carry around, right? Like, but there’s a limit there, you know, once the cash is out, the cash is out. What do you think about that?

Kimberly Harp 15:55
I mean, encouraging that sense of normalcy, and just those day to day functions that they’re used to doing, but may not be understanding why things are changing, or why they’re going through some of the struggles they are, that would definitely encourage it. And as long as their loved one or a trusted caregiver is transporting them to and from places where they’re doing their shopping, that absolutely encourages positive, you know, self autonomy still, even though they may not have it.

Michael Hughes 16:24
Yeah, because it feels good to know that you have money in your pocket. Right? That’s a good thing. I also know and I don’t have any names, there are kind of emerging services out there that will kind of be the in between the bank and the lob, like, like giving somebody a debit card that has a daily limit on it, you know, or things like that, I think that there’s those solutions seems to be out there that you can kind of change a debit card to one where, you know, you can only spend 500 bucks a day or things like that. Yes,

Kimberly Harp 16:58
absolutely. Those are wonderful, newer resources that are out there. And there are some definite information packets that you can find on the Division of Aging Services website., you know, which is the Alzheimer’s Association, many different websites and services out there that have resources on how to protect yourself, as best you can from some of those exploitation, scams and fraudulent activities.

Michael Hughes 17:29
Got it. And I think that’s great. Those resources are fantastic. Anything else comes to mind on this subject that you think, or something that may stick in your mind from someone you’ve helped that you think listeners should know about.

Kimberly Harp 17:44
Just know you’re not alone. You know, if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been exploited, or are witnessing a loved one who has Alzheimer’s be exploited. Your voice matters, you know, you can be the one may be the only one to advocate for their behalf. And as sad as it is to realize, man, you know, how did that happen? Why is this a reality in our world? It’s also so rewarding to know. You’ve been trusted as their voice. You know, you can be that advocate to the best of your ability and it matters. There is support out there, there are resources, you are not alone.

Michael Hughes 18:29
That’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Well, before I tear up more, I just wanted to thank you our listeners for listening to another episode of Ask a Naviguide and this is part of the abundant aging podcast series brought to you by United Church Homes. If you enjoyed this week’s show, please of course, like share and subscribe sorry, like, share, subscribe so we can begin more of this great you think I learned to say that already right? Bringing more of this great content can be found on and you can listen to our other episodes there. You can also subscribe and listen on our YouTube page United Church Homes. You can also give us comments and feedback and ideas for shows because we want to hear from you. And we want to know what’s important to you and what we should be covering. For more information about the United Church homes navigation program, please visit For more information about United Church homes and also our comfort matters dementia care program that’s And if you’re listening past July of 2023, just know that we are likely to have our caregiver resource site up and running by that time which is because we want to help everyone everywhere age with abundance. So thank you for listening again and until next time.