It’s funny, but most people who look online for identity theft information are probably not trying to learn how to steal personal or financial information. The typical consumers are looking for ways to protect their identities, not steal someone else’s. But there are unfortunate ways that innocent people can accidentally engage in behaviors that can have consequences, even criminal ones, especially where elder care is concerned.

As more and more adults take on the responsibility for an aged parent or family member, it can be tough to try to keep their heads above water. These people are trying to balance their own family’s day-to-day lives with jobs, kids’ activities, and bills to pay, but then suddenly find themselves taking on the responsibility of an entirely separate additional household. They now have Mom’s bills to keep track of, home repairs to coordinate, doctor’s appointments to schedule and keep, and even placement in an assisted living or residential care center to contend with.

Once you have durable power of attorney over a family member, your legal concerns are just beginning. While that document affords you certain decision making control over your parent’s health, it also opens you up to scrutiny about your relative’s finances. One missing receipt can result in hurt feelings within your family, ugly accusations, and even a criminal investigation.

In her book, Alzheimer’s: Through My Mother’s Eyes, author Suzette Brown explains that every penny of your parent’s accounts still belong to her. Her house is still her property, even if she’s living in a nursing home. Her car, which may sit unused after the authorities revoke her driver’s license, is still her property. You cannot allow other family members or friends to use that property without compensating your mother’s estate. Letting your brother move into your mom’s home without paying rent, or letting your teenaged daughter drive the car because no one is using it, would be akin to writing them checks out of your mother’s checking account just for fun.

One area that many people fail to consider when caring for a relative is the day-to-day errand running. If Dad needs new socks and underwear, for example, you have to save that receipt and file it with Dad’s expenses. Something as simple as picking up snacks for your mom’s hospital room must be logged. Make sure not to fall into the trap of combining your shopping either; when the receipt lists multiple items, some of which were your personal purchases, you can once again open yourself up to questions about your financial behavior.

While there is no governing body who will knock on your door and demand to see your record keeping, this type of meticulous behavior will help you out in any situations where someone questions the care your parent is receiving or brings up their concerns with your parent’s money. Should there ever be an issue or an accusation, you will not only have fine-toothed-comb level records of spending, but you will have also established an unquestionable pattern of behavior concerning your relative’s accounts.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign