Posted by: Redbeard | February 28, 2014

I normally try to keep these postings light in nature and at least entertaining from my point of view. This one is not. If you have a relative, or a good friend who doesn’t have an advocate, that becomes disabled in anyway, read this as a warning to pay attention to what is going on in their world. A world that has dramatically changed. You may not be able to change or alter anything that they do, but maybe you can provide some advice.

Some of you are aware that just before Christmas my brother had a stroke and heart attack. To say the least my brother has always been very, very independent. The results of the stroke however, have left him paralyzed on his left side and he requires qualified care 24/7. He has come to grips with the possibility he may never walk again, but there is always hope. My brothers hobby, so to speak, was his house. All alone he put on a year round sunroom and expanded his kitchen. He worked at his own pace and his work was always top quality. The next major renovation he was planning was to redo the kitchen. This would entail a complete gutting and rebuilt. The only appliance that would have to have been bought was a microwave, to be installed over the new stove. The only other new item would be a new sink and faucet assembly and flooring.

I had advised him that he needed three months with the new expenses of his medical condition to see how his money flowed. Unfortunately he ignored this advice and hired a contractor. Here are some of the round figures that this “individual” charged him. For the kitchen redo as described above, $39,000. For moving some brickwork, putting in a wheelchair ramp, installing five pieces of bead board, trimming five doors, and some paint, $27,000. Of the others I found a quote of $12,000 for the removal and replacement of his garage door. That’s one I had stopped.

Let me say right here that having caregivers who recognize when things don’t quite seem correct and advise you, are one of your most valuable assets. To know that they are looking out for your loved one beyond their assigned duties is rather comforting. Back to the story.

I said that my brothers decisions to hire these people without having them checked out was unfortunate. In addition it was costly. I believe that all the kitchen work could have been accomplished for under $25,000. Heck I would’ve demoed the kitchen for $5000 (not really, he’s my brother for goodness sake,) but you get the idea. $12,000 for a new garage door and opener? We are having a known company installing the latest and greatest for under $2500.

It was plain dumb luck, or a cosmic alignment, that I was out at my brothers the other day when this contractor happened by. Other than having a good visit I had earlier been looking at the contracts that my brother had agreed to. I was at one end of the table, he sat at the other end of the table and my brother between us. This was a good thing. I asked him about the charges on each one of these contracts. He thought that they were just fine. He said he didn’t understand what I was talking about. He thought he was being fair. And when I pointed out the $12,000 for a garage door isn’t even in the same ballpark as a major company I had already checked into… Four times the major companies price, he said I didn’t know what I was talking about. This guy knows me from no one. He knows nothing about my background with construction companies who know how to put a bid together and he knows nothing about the family history. We, like so many other homeowners, know what lumber costs and know what labor costs. We know what is fair and we know when we’re getting taken. I told them that he was to settle with my brother for what he is already done, clean up any debris that might be around, and to go away and never contact him or me again.  But the con continued.                     

Within hours of my departure later that afternoon, he called and wanted to apologize for any “miscommunications” there might have been on their pricing  and that they were going to offer to do the garage door for free. I was alerted to this fact and called him. I asked him what he was doing. “Did you not understand the instructions that I had given?” I asked and repeated what I had told him when we sat across the table. He said that everything was cleaned up that that he had been paid what was due him. I told him once again, not to ever contact my brother and that if I needed to, I would deal with his boss. Later, I talked to the caregivers and gave them instructions that if he ever returned or called that they were to call me immediately. I also thank them again.

The next day I received a phone call from a County social services representative. She had got a call concerning possible fraudulent contracting services in regards to my brother. We had a long conversation and she provided some instructions so that we could make a complaint against this contractor’s license with the State.

 

At the end of the day we all have to realize that elder abuse or abuse of the disabled can take many forms. For a strong-willed and knowledgeable man like my brother, who is used to making his own decisions, to now have to rely on outside input to those decisions is very tough. There has been a dramatic change in his world and it takes time to get used to it. Ultimately, with input from people who care, this con artist and the unscrupulous company behind him have been stopped without the use of cowboy justice. They will be reported so that maybe, just maybe they will not con another elderly or disabled person.

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