Can I record conversation to prove elder abuse?

Q: We suspect our feeble but mentally sound grandparent is being emotionally and financially blackmailed by a private home caregiver who has recently come onto the scene. The grandparent has become somewhat secretive and it has been very difficult to meet this “caregiver”. They have begun a legal contract together regarding care of our grandparent. Upon death the caregiver will receive an overly generous financial gain. There are several requests that the caregiver has made that are illogical and very concerning to have in the contract to gain legal power over our grandparent. Our grandparent has started to withdraw from family since this caregiver has come along. The grandparent is acting out of character & trusts the caregiver. Our grandparent has already been influenced by the caregiver in a way that has put their health/life at risk. The caregiver does not like to meet with family to discuss their arrangement. There are many red flags at this stage with this relationship and we are sick with worry. Can we record conversations without consent to help prove undue influence as it is so difficult to find other proof at this time How else can we collect proof regarding undue influence of an elderly person? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Not unless you want to take the risk of the caregiver filing criminal charges against you. PA is a two-party consent state. I suggest calling Adult Protective Services and have them do a home visit to assess the situation. Your grandparent can do as they wish if they are competent. However, if the caregiver is becoming an heir and receiving more than just compensation for services, something is wrong and there is a legal course of remedy based on the doctrine of undue influence. You could also make the local police aware of the situation. Some police have training in elder and may have suggestions as to what help they can provide.

My fiancés grandfather is living with us. Are we liable?

Q: My fiancé’s grandfather is 92 and has some type of dementia. He was living with his daughter who is his caregiver, but they had a fight and he moved with us at his house. The house is not safe for an elderly and he stays home for over 10 hours while we work which is very concerning to me. Are we liable if something happens to him? My fiancé’s aunt just dropped him in our lap without any information about his medication and things he needs or things he can’t have. My fiancé’s grandfather was the one who decided to move in with us. He is not able to make decisions of his own. I need to know what I can do to get him to a safe place and are we responsible for anything that happens to him or is his daughter liable for it? Please help. Thank you.

A: Your fiancés aunt sounds like a real sweet lady. If I understand this, he owns the house and you and his granddaughter are living in it? If you do not want to take care of him, call the Adult Protective Services to assess his ability to live alone. Then you can move out and he is on his own. If you want to help him, you need to have him assessed by a doctor. This will give you an idea of the level of care he needs. You can reach out to and senior citizens care groups or perhaps get a referral from his doctor. He may need in home care, or possibly assisted living. If he has social security and a pension, he should be able to afford this. You should also seek the advice of an elder law attorney. If this man is competent, he should execute a Will and a Power of Attorney. If he is not competent the attorney can advise you about a guardianship. You should also be advised of how Medicaid would impact the situation, if he needed to apply for benefits. It will certainly be the right thing to do and honorable if you decide to help him, but it could be a lot of work.

Can my mother grant me a power of attorney if her domestic partner is not willing?

Q: My mother is 80 years old and showing signs of dementia. 14 years-ago a man lived in her house. Throughout those years my mother lived with uncertainty and anguish because this man is alcoholic.  am vacationing in her house now. But the man harasses me. I want to leave the house but I cannot bear to leave my mother in her situation now.  The man does not work. He claims that he is a paid caregiver of my mother. But now he controls her finances. She derives her income from a survivorship pension from her husband a federal employee who passed away in 1994.

A: This is a difficult situation. I suggest you speak with a local attorney who handles elder law and guardianship. Yes, mother can appoint you as her agent on a Power of Attorney, if she desires to and she is competent. If you feel she is not competent and being exploited, you may need to file a petition in court to be her guardian. This would give you power to have this man removed from her life. You may also want to contact Adult Protective Services to see if they will do a home visit. Their input and direction may be helpful.