How does a person protect an aging family member who still has some decision making abilities?
Waning decision making abilities are more likely for people as they age. I see elderly people get increasingly frustrated by mixing up their family members’ names, forgetting what they were talking about in mid-sentence, reminiscing about events that never took place. These individuals can still make certain decisions at certain times, but are not really 100% competent. The problem is that courts are loath to consider these people incapacitated, so younger family members are stuck worrying that a financial predator will strike the aging client in a moment of weakness.
- MONEY: When paid care givers are working at the homes of these individuals, it is imperative that financial accounts are protected. While it does not make sense to remove all of the family member’s checks and cash (it may even be downright illegal), the majority of funds should be held in a savings account so that an interloper cannot falsify a check from the client for thousands of dollars. Leave the client with access to their checking account, which should be funded with sufficient funds for personal expenses, and set up online account alerts for when the account is below a certain threshold amount. Make sure to investigate before replenishing the account.
- VALUABLE: It may be best to convince the aging family member to have their valuables held at another person’s residence. When this is done, it is important to create an inventory of the property and location of where it will be held, then have it signed by the client and the person holding the property, and state who will get what upon their passing.
- VISITNG: Most importantly, visit the family member frequently. Make sure they are well bathed, their residence is clean, their living space has proper heating and air conditioning, and the refrigerator has food and beverages that are regularly being consumed: Many aging individuals tend to drink too little fluid due to their fear of incontinence.
- COMMUNICATIONS: And treat them with respect: I see too many people talk to their elderly family members in a condescending tone (“Now mom, we went over this last week, remember? What did the plumber say about the sink not being fixed until tomorrow? Do you remember that?”). Such a tone will evoke a defensive response from the individual who already knows their faculties are somewhat compromised, which can lead to combative discussions and a descending circle of frustration for both parties.
Watching a loved one age can be gut-wrenching, and few people willingly give up control of their personal affairs without a fight. Remember to focus on being respectful and patient.
Q FOR U: If you were the aging individual, how would you respond to giving up some control over your money and decision making?