Shady Characters That Caregivers Should Be Aware of (Part 2)

As a caregiver of a loved one, you need to look out for people willing to take advantage of the person you’re caring for. Last week we looked at two such shady characters: the family black sheep and harmful religious groups. This week we’ll round out the list with alcohol abuse enablers and people willing to trade sex for favors.

Alcohol Abuse Enablers

Alcohol abuse can be a serious problem for seniors, so caregivers shouldn’t assume that involvement in social organizations is benign. Some fraternal lodges can be little more than drinking clubs that are cheaper than the corner bar.

It’s also important to consider the potential alcohol abuse by those who are helping you care for your loved one, as there can be a link between caregiver burden and alcohol abuse. It’s no surprise that caregivers can end up abusing alcohol, especially as a “remedy” for the following physical and mental issues—issues that are more common among caregivers than non-caregivers:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor quality of life

If you notice excessive drinking in either your loved one or a caregiver, you need to step in and do something about it. If your loved one is abusing alcohol, it may be a good idea to decrease their involvement in any social organizations that are encouraging drinking, remove alcohol from their home and pursue help via their physician or a 12-step group. If a caregiver is the one with the issue, their employer should be alerted so they can address the situation.

Sex for Favors

Adult children who take care of elderly parents need to take off their blinders when it comes to sex. Children need to see their parents as adults with normal sexual desires, which can continue well into old age despite what is commonly believed: 29% of men and 25% of women over age 80 still engage in sexual activity. This is often quite positive, but it can lead to some problematic situations. As one example, a nurse’s aide I know of was paid $500 to work naked in an elderly man’s home.

Such situations are more common than you might think, as this story of a family I worked with can help illustrate: After the mother’s death, the aging father was moved into senior housing. Shortly thereafter, he began making deals for sexual favors with a 19-year-old housekeeper. Because the man’s assets were never retitled after his wife passed away, he was able to legally pass on $300,000 to the housekeeper. Unfortunately, this change to his will wasn’t discovered until after his death. The issue could have been avoided had the family taken the time to make the changes necessary to require all trustees’ signatures on legal documents.


Not everyone who offers to help your elderly relative is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and I’m not suggesting that you trust no one. However, it’s a good idea to become aware of the issues that can occur so you can keep your eyes open for them. Keep tabs on what’s going on in your senior loved one’s life, and trust your instincts whenever something seems amiss. It’s far better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting those who are no longer able to protect themselves.