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I Care a Lot: The Reality of Elder Fraud and Guardianship

Marla Grayson. If you are not shuddering at the sound of her name, you haven’t refreshed your Netflix cue lately. 

I Care a Lot follows con artist Marla Grayson as she is fraudulently granted court-appointed guardianships over wealthy, elderly individuals. Within Marla’s predatory circle are unethical physicians who help identify these elderly “cherries” and testify in court on their impending cognitive decline. Once appointed as their Guardian, Marla quickly places them in confined, custodial care only to feverishly drain the ward of their assets.

While court-appointments are far more legally involved in real life, I Care A Lot accurately depicts factors such as cognitive impairment and decreased independence to establish the case for guardianship over an individual. Through this legal arrangement, the individual acting as a Guardian can make financial and medical decisions for the protected person or ward. And as should go without saying, this person responsible for their care should behave with the individual’s best interests in mind.

Yet, the exploitation and greed portrayed by the villainous Marla have most viewers scratching their heads, unable to fathom this storyline as a real-life possibility. Surely, no one is capable of taking advantage of Grandma, right? Sadly, the answer isn’t as straightforward as it should be. With elder fraud and exploitation growing at exponential rates, I Care a Lot couldn’t have come to our couches at a better time. 

Elder Fraud and Exploitation

The National Adult Protective Services Association reports that 1 in 20 older adults perceived some sort of financial mistreatment in the recent past. And while the fictitious Marla from I Care A Lot primarily preys on older people without family, 90% of elderly abusers are family members or other trusted individuals.

It is not to say that the elderly are not subject to scams fabricated by strangers. From romance scams to predatory lending and beyond, elderly fraud seems to be lurking in broad daylight, ready to pounce on the most vulnerable at any given time. 

Who Are The Most Vulnerable?

While cognitive impairment significantly increases a person’s risk factors for elderly fraud, it is not necessarily a defining characteristic. 

According to the Metlife Study of Financial Elder Abuse, other risk factors for elder abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Social isolation or living alone
  • Women between the ages of 80-89 
  • The decline in physical capabilities (i.e., limited mobility)
  • Low social support
  • History of telemarketing/remote purchases

The impact of falling victim to elder fraud cannot be understated. Lost assets not only can result in loss of independence but increase the risk of clinical depression, loss of quality of life, and dependence on social welfare agencies.

With 80% of the country’s wealth in the pockets of the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, it is more vital than ever to find ways to protect our most vulnerable. While the film, I Care A Lot, can feel like a Hollywood escapade, the problem is very much real.

How Do We Protect Against Elder Exploitation?

protecting against elder exploitation like what happens in the film I Care A Lot

The Federal Trade Commission’s Pass It On Campaign and the declaration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day are incredible opportunities for communities to acknowledge the elder abuse and fraud crisis. Still, we have to dig a little deeper. 

WayWiser is doing just that. By using technology to bring families together across the globe, this comprehensive platform increases seniors’ independence and freedom by making them exploitation-proof. 

WayWiser is a Guardian in a sense. Not only does it use an assessment to tailor specific actions and strategies to improve an elder’s financial durability, but the app also creates alerts for its subscribers which are sent to designated Trusted Circle members to make the user impenetrable. Or, let’s say, less of a “cherry” than Marla would like to mess with.

I Care a Lot gives us a front-row seat to the crisis happening to our older family, friends, and neighbors. And while Marla eventually pays the price for her wrongdoings, one can’t help think about the troubled young man in the movie’s final scene- his despair, everything he has lost, and how ultimately avoidable his mother’s situation could have been.

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