Protecting those with dementia from scams

Today, 15th June, is World Elder Abuse Day – a day which aims to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of older generations. The 2017 theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation.

In his guest blog Paul Holland, Principal Prevention Officer with East Renfrewshire Council talks about an upcoming project to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation.


On World Elder Abuse Day it is important to recognise tackling scams and protecting older people from financial harm as a big part of promoting a good later life for all. This is something I am very much aware of in my role in The Prevention Team for East Renfrewshire Council.  I have seen the terrible consequences of older people being the victims of scams, but I’ve also seen the benefits to older people of taking relatively simple measures to protect them from nuisance calls and scammers.

Seeing the benefits to older people of protecting them from scammers made me determined to ensure that more is done throughout Scotland to protect vulnerable people from financial abuse. That’s why I am delighted to be the Co-Ordinator of a new project funded by the Life Changes Trust to work in collaboration with Angus and South Ayrshire Council, to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation. We are also looking forward to working with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project to ensure the Charity’s member groups have more information about our work, as it will benefit very many older people and not only people with dementia.

People living with dementia are at great risk of falling prey to scammers and carers are often very worried about how to prevent their relative becoming a victim of a scam, particularly in the early stages of dementia when a person still has capacity but may not always have sufficient understanding to exercise good judgement.

The aim of this project is to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation, on the doorstep, by telephone, by mail or online.

Each local authority area will bring together local and national organisations to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and various types of useful technology, for example, call blockers. Call blockers screen incoming phone calls and either block any unknown or unauthorised numbers or transfer them to a nominated family member or guardian.

It’s vital that all adults know about what can be done to protect themselves from scams, particularly older adults, as unfortunately it is often older people who are targeted, and scammers are becoming increasing sophisticated. You can find out more about our activity to stop scams on our website. This provides advice if you are worried that you, a friend or a relative may be vulnerable to scams; tired of cold callers at the door and on the phone; looking to hire reputable traders; or want to know how to keep safe and secure in the home and online.

Over the course of our project we are also looking forward to developing more advice and information for the Charity’s member groups. Working together there is a lot we can do to stop the scammers and ensure that there are fewer victims of financial abuse.

If you have been a victim of a scam or want advice about a suspicious contact telephone Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.  If in doubt check it out!

 

 

 

EU Referendum: one week to go

As we approach the European Referendum, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive Brian Sloan encourages everyone to use their vote.


With only a week until the European Referendum, it is vital that Scotland’s older people have their say on this historic decision for the future of our country. Age Scotland is very conscious that there is a diverse range of views on our future in Europe among older people in Scotland.  That is why we feel it is very important we as a Charity take a neutral position on the referendum.  However while we will not support either of the campaigns in the referendum or encourage older people to vote for a specific position, we certainly do encourage older people to use their vote.

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Brian Sloan – Age Scotland’s Chief Executive

There can be no doubt that big issues affecting older people have been placed at the heart of the referendum debate by both campaigns – the future of our pensions, our public services and our NHS.  It is also true that many people who are weighing up how they will vote on the 23rd feel they would still like more information from the two campaigns to help them come to a decision.

As Scotland’s charity for older people, we are keen that Age Scotland does what we can to help encourage debate on these important issues and ensure people have they information they need to come to an informed view.  That is why we invited leading figures from both campaigns to write articles for our Advantage magazine to explain how they have come to their view.  Professor Sir Harry Burns, a former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, writes on behalf of Scotland Stronger in Europe, and Tom Harris, a former MP, is now Director of Scottish Vote Leave and has outlined that campaign’s position.

You can view the articles here on pages 14-15 and I am sure you will find them interesting and informative. How you will vote in the referendum is up to you, but given this is a big decision for Scotland’s older people I do encourage you to use your vote.

The Difference Power of Attorney makes: Shirley’s story

Guest Blogger Shirley Gill’s parents were diagnosed with Dementia within a year of each other. Her father had Power of Attorney set up but her mother did not. In her guest blog, she shares with us the vastly different experiences she had when trying to manage her parent’s financial matters, and the difference that having Power of Attorney set up made.


Initially my parents had no Will or Power of Attorney in place. My Mum saw herself as forever youthful, and Dad had always allowed her to attend to all financial matters. After being reluctant to attend her GP, Mum was late in receiving a diagnosis of Frontotemporal Dementia at the age of 70. She was admitted to hospital then moved into nursing home care. Mum lacked the capacity to make decisions about her finances and welfare, but as there was no Power of Attorney set up, I was advised that to be able to make any decisions on her behalf, I would need to apply for guardianship.

Mum and I met with solicitors to assess her views but she didn’t understand any of it. The solicitor then had to write to the GP and Consultant about her diagnosis and capacity. The solicitors also then had to write to every close relative of Mum’s, to find out if anyone had an objection to me being her guardian, despite the fact that some of them had had no recent contact with Mum. This process took months and in the interim I had to apply for Access to Funds at Office of Public Guardian (OPG) so that I could deal with Mum’s financial matters. For this I had to detail her every requirement and it was very stressful and time-consuming.

During this time, Dad agreed to see a solicitor to arrange a Will and Power of Attorney. Dad was visited in his own home and the whole process was straight-forward and not costly. The following year he was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. It was a comfort to know that with the Power of Attorney set up, we had everything in place so that I could look after his finances and welfare when he was no longer able.

Several lawyer’s letters later, Guardianship was eventually in place for Mum, having cost a total of £6000. I needed to have this in order to make any decisions about Mum’s care or deal with her finances. Even now the process is complete, I have to send annual accounts to OPG which is very time consuming.

What I have learned from this experience is that it’s a good idea to arrange a Will and Power of Attorney in as much advance as you can, you are never too young. I have now arranged a Will and for my daughter to be my Power of Attorney. I would urge people to consider Power of Attorney to protect their families and reduce any unnecessary stress in the event of illness.

For more information on Power of Attorney visit the Age Scotland website, or to speak to someone about your individual situation call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90.

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Getting Online at 85

The 13th – 19th of October is “Get Online” week! Our Digital Communications Officer Emma Bisset visited a computer club held by Keeping in Touch Edinburgh (KiTE), to find out how the organisation is helping older people overcome their fears of technology and getting them online.


Technology has been part of my life for some time now. I’ve had to use email and the internet for work for years, and I regularly do my banking and shopping online. For many people going online is second nature, so it’s easy to forget that some older people never used a computer during their working lives. As an increasing number of services move to being more focused on their online activities, there is a fear that these people will be left behind.

That’s why organisations like KiTE are so crucial. KiTE work with older people to introduce them to the benefits and fun of being online, and work to alleviate their fear of technology. They offer a structured beginners course, 1-2-1 sessions and a more relaxed computer club. Viewpoint Housing Association provide funding for Old Farm Court Sheltered Housing to host a regular computer club, which residents can attend for free. I went to visit them recently to find out more.

Computer club members ably helped by EleanorI first spoke to a lady in her mid-eighties called May. She had never used a computer while working but is now a regular attendee of the computer club, having had a 1-2-1 session to get over her initial reservations.

She has now signed up to Facebook, which she uses to stay in touch with a friend in Ohio and share information with other older friends who are also members. “My hearing isn’t what it was and I need the telly on really loud, which probably disturbs my neighbours. I got free headphones for the telly from DeafAction which have really helped, so I put on Facebook that they did that so my friends knew as well. It’s great for letting people know your news and what’s going on.” May’s next goal is to learn how to make Christmas cards online so she can personalise and print off cards for everyone this year.

I also spoke to a gentleman called Jimmy who said the club has helped him find his way online. He goes online to plan trips down south. “I got a better deal on train tickets because I checked online so it’s good for that.”

Gina, 75 has found being online helpful for sharing things with her granddaughter. “She’s five and visited one day when it was raining. There wasn’t much to do and she was bored so we went online and watched the live camera of the panda in Edinburgh Zoo. She loved it and it’s something we can do together.”

One lady who was attending the club for the first time still had her reservations and said she found the session rather overwhelming. I noticed how the other members rallied round, reassuring her that they had felt the same on their first visit.

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There is a real sense of the members being supported as they find their own way, with some members bringing their own laptops and even iPads. Some had clearly built up some confidence, only calling on KiTE volunteers if something unexpected happened, while others sat with a volunteer, being talked through a process.

People of all ages differ in how much they use technology and what they go online for. It’s great to see organisations like KiTE working to tackle the fear some older people have, and explain the benefits of the internet and digital technology to generations that are just discovering them.

One lady approached me at the end of the session to say “I always ask a lot of questions, but these volunteers are worth their weight in gold.” She chatted with the volunteers before packing up her laptop to leave, shouting as she left “Just remember, don’t get old!”001

Visit KiTE’s website to find out more about their work.

 

Wrapping up household risks for Christmas

Knowing you’ve taken care to minimise risks in your home will put your mind at ease, letting you relax and enjoy the festive period. It’s the small things that can make the biggest difference – like fitting new batteries in your smoke alarm!

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Fires and heaters

• For open fires, check the hearth, floor and furnishings for sparks or embers and get your chimney swept every year. Also, use a fireguard and don’t overload the grate or bank the fire too high.

• For gas or electric fires, make sure you switch off at the socket before bedtime, and have your gas fires, boilers and central heating checked annually.

Smoke and gas

  • Buy and fit a smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm. You may get these free if you’re on your energy supplier’s Priority Services Register.
  • Don’t plug up air vents to cut down on draughts – this may cause a build up of carbon monoxide.

Nightwear & electric blankets

  • Make sure you have enough bedding and try to keep your bedroom at a comfortably warm temperature – between 21-23°C is best.
  • In case of a power cut during the night, keep a torch by your bed and a hot drink in a flask should you awake.
  • Wear warm night clothes and/or thermals and socks in bed. Use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket. If your electric blanket is not new, have it checked. Your local Fire department can tell you how.
  • Replace your electric blanket if it is over 5 years old.

If you smell gas, phone the National Grid on 0800 111 999.

The information in this post was taken from our Hot Tips 2013 calendar.  To request Hot Tips 2014 – free for older people in Scotland – please email us.  Next year’s calendar includes contributions from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

No question too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone

Jenny, Session Supervisor- Silver Line Scotland reports back from our Launch week:

Today was the official launch of Silver Line Scotland. The team had decorated the Helpline with silvery decorations and made Esther Rantzen a cake to commemorate the launch. We also dressed for the occasion in a variety of silver clothing, shoes and accessories.

Silver Line

We had a busy start to the morning with calls in the first few minutes of opening. The Silver Line is open 24 hours on 0800 4 70 80 90, but Silver Line (UK) manage the calls overnight from their centre in Blackpool, then Silver Line Scotland take the Scottish calls from 8am to 8pm on weekdays.

Esther came in to the Helpline at about 12.30 after meeting with press and photographers to speak about the service.  She chatted with the team about some of the types of calls that Silver Line had received through the pilot period and the types of calls the Scottish team have been getting this week.  We are all hoping that Silver Line becomes the first point of contact for older people in Scotland for any problem, question or just a listening ear which is summed up by our motto:

‘No question too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone’.

Age Scotland Helpline has been a trusted source of information for many years and calls have always been quite varied and unpredictable. We receive calls on subjects as diverse as care, housing, heating, benefits and everything else besides (‘How do I get my letter from the Queen when I turn 100?’, ‘I’m struggling to hear my phone ringing, what can I do?’)  but with the addition of Silver Line we have an extra dimension to our service.  Many of our calls this week have been from people wanting to chat, wanting to sign up to be a Silver Line volunteer, to have a Silver Line friend or just wanting to pass on their thoughts about the service.

Silver LineWe’ve had some great feedback on how excited people are that the friend service is available and how pleased they are that they can ring 24 hours to speak to someone.  We have still received our usual mix of calls about care, housing, benefits and older people’s rights, but we’ve also had people feeling lonely or isolated, or just wanting to get something off their chest.

It’s been a busy week for the Helpline and we’re looking forward to it carrying on as Silver Line becomes more well-known and grows from strength to strength.

Proudly presenting Silver Line Scotland

Silver Line Scotland in partnership with Age Scotland, launch a new 24 hour helpline offering information, advice and friendship to older people on 0800 4 70 80 90.  Esther Rantzen, founder and chair of The Silver Line, spoke to Age Scotland about this land-mark new service.

Esther with Age Scotland Chief Executive Brian Sloan.

Esther with Age Scotland Chief Executive Brian Sloan.

“We know from the experience of ChildLine that it is sometimes difficult to talk about serious problems like loneliness or abuse,” says Esther, who helped found that service in the 1980s.  “So with The Silver Line, we are saying to older people that you can ring us up about anything.”

For Esther it’s vitally important that the service is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.   “We get very important calls in the early hours of the morning, on Sunday mornings, and on Christmas day.  People can be sleepless, and with Sunday and Christmas dedicated to family they can feel particularly lonely on these days.”  

Silver Line Scotland is not just a number people can call in a time of crisis. “We learned from our pilot of the service that some people really enjoy speaking to someone on a regular basis, and that a Silver Line friendship can transform their life,” says Esther.  “They say that being able to talk to someone who is genuinely interested in them makes them feel valued and gives them confidence.  So as a result of contacting The Silver Line, one woman went on to join a book club, and we also spurred a man to go out and buy a new guitar.”

The inspiration to found The Silver Line came from Esther’s personal experience.  “Living alone for the first time at age of 71 I realised that, even though I had quite a good life, coming home to a dark flat with no-one to make tea for is pretty lonely.”

Esther feels that there are barriers that make it difficult for people who are lonely to ask for help.  “Many older people are determined not to be a burden, and they will often say that they know there are people far worse off than they are,” she says.  “There is definitely a stigma attached to loneliness; admitting to it can feel a bit like admitting that you are unlikeable.”

In Scotland The Silver Line is working in partnership with Age Scotland to deliver Silver Line Scotland.  “I went up to meet Age Scotland Chief Executive Brian Sloan,” says Esther.  “The idea for a partnership came from him, and it was such a brilliant one as Scotland’s laws and systems are slightly different and Age Scotland’s telephone advisers are experts in this.” Esther is “hugely enthusiastic” about the partnership.  “I have the greatest respect for the work of Age Scotland’s dynamic team and am delighted to be working with it.” 

Call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90