Retirement

Desperate For Pain Relief: Why Aging Parents Fall For Fraud

Can you think of anything that makes a person more desperate for relief than being in constant pain? People can fall for anything that promises to end chronic, debilitating pain.

My late mother in law, Alice, then in her 90’s, was feeling like that. She had chronic knee pain that kept getting worse. She had tried all kinds of medication and other

options. She had had surgery. Those didn’t work.

Unscrupulous professionals know that when folks are distressed, they are malleable. They devise ways to snare them into buying magic solutions. Alice went with some friends to a “free lunch seminar”, always a vehicle for selling something.

This one was put on near her large retirement community, full of fairly well-to-do elders. Lots of chronic pain issues there. Nice target.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

The promise of magic pain solutions is enticing, especially when the solution comes from a healthcare provider. At the free lunch seminar, a chiropractor told all the elders that if they had pain, he would fix it once and for all. All they had to do was sign up for his guaranteed-to-work pain relief program for a mere $3000, payable in advance and of course, nonrefundable. He carefully never put the guarantee in writing, but he used verbally it to seduce anyone there into believing his promise. He was indeed a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Alice signed up. Her family advised her not to go through with his program as there were suspicious things uncovered in checking him out. She said she was ready to try anything and he assured her that everyone got good results. She went, regardless of our warnings.

The chiropractor in question didn’t even see her. His assistant did the work, which involved very brief “treatment” followed by a very long, pressure talk to try to get her to buy his expensive supplements. She was told they would enable the treatment to work. The “treatment” did nothing at all for her pain. She quit and asked for her money back. No dice.

A Consequence

With her permission, we filed a complaint with the State Chiropractic Board, which prosecutes fraud and license violations through the state Attorney General. They pursued the chiropractor, eventually settling with him. He paid a fine and was presumably placed on probation. Of course, none of this got Alice her money back. At last check he was still in business. Clearly, there are plenty of honest and competent chiropractors doing excellent work with chronic pain. But surely, none who are ethical will ever promise that everyone will get pain relief with their treatment.

Pain relief is a big opportunity for scammers. They may be selling magic potions on the internet. The trap may start out small but these dishonest folks ask for more money over time. Research shows that many seniors who get taken for relatively small amounts of money often become victims in gradually escalating amounts. They want desperately to believe in the promises and that makes them vulnerable to manipulation.

When you know your aging loved one suffers from chronic pain, learn from this real-life example. It is not an isolated incident.

The Takeaways:

  1. Get some advice about whether other options for pain relief are available apart from what has been tried with your aging parent. Encourage them to get a second opinion from a medical doctor who has expertise in managing pain.
  2. Warn aging loved ones that any person, ad, or social media post that guarantees pain relief is not truthful. No one can guarantee pain relief for everyone. The mere promise must serve as a red flag for dishonesty.
  3. If your aging loved one lets you know that they’ve found a “miracle worker” who is going to fix their pain for sure if they just pay money now, do all you can to stop them from paying. We tried it and failed. Alice went anyway, losing thousands of dollars. You may have better luck if you share her story with your own aging parent.
  4. Make it public. If your aging parents’s story is useful and you get permission to share it, local newspapers, TV or radio stations may be interested in it. That’s one way to educate and thwart these predators.

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