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Before They Fail, Fall, or Are Defrauded, Help Elderly Family and Friends

Watching the decline of aging friends or family is a painful experience.  Oftentimes, a lot of emotion is involved with all parties.  Mistakes can be hugely consequential at a time when some are extremely vulnerable.  It is important to act if something is amiss.

On a personal note, if you are considering taking in an elderly person, whether your parents, or others, first have a frank discussion with your significant other.  When my mother moved into our house, my wife could not have been any more supportive.  Without that support, a difficult time would have been made much worse.  In retrospect, despite the number of health issues my mother had, her living with us allowed our children to experience their only living grandparent in a very special way. 

To prepare for the inevitability of aging, here are a few of the things to look for:

Behavior Change:  This may be subtle, at first, but can accelerate rapidly.  For example, a normally frugal parent becomes an avid consumer.  Many of us with Depression era parents and grandparents would be shocked by any extravagant purchase they make.  Don’t mistake this for late in life generosity. Look for out of the ordinary behavior.

Forgetfulness:  Well, this one may open a can of worms for a lot of folks.  Someone who exhibits forgetfulness in middle age, will likely continue that in the future.  It’s when someone displays a new level of forgetfulness, we should be more vigilant.  If it becomes an extreme memory issue, you may need to act.  A call to their personal physician can at least raise awareness.  Be aware that there are limitations to what the doctor can discuss.

Change in Advisor(s): As I am growing my business, I’m not opposed to Advisor changes at all.  Especially, if they choose to come to me.  Seriously, a change in a longstanding and trusting relationship can be a cause for concern.  You may want to try to understand the reasoning with some gentle, probing questions.  A solid rationale is important.  Some online researching can uncover enough information about the new advisor to see if more digging is needed.  

Physical Decline: Decline in physical ability is not a surprise for any of us.  Other than teenagers, all humans begin to see this early and begin to accept some limitations.  (Personally, I would advocate you still challenge yourself physically in reasonable and rewarding ways.)   While, physical decline is to be expected, any recent injury may trigger a great deal more.  Depression may set in and a resignation that could lead to more rapid decline. 

The single most important thing is communication.  A discussion of future needs will help to open a dialogue.  You will want to tailor your approach to the individual.  For example, business owners may have a difficult time if they need to give “up the reins”.  A light hand here may result in greater concessions or agreement.  

You should also consider the need for legal documents, such as Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and a Will to address future eventualities. 

The Department of Health and Human Services provides links to many resources.  Any search engine will turn up various non-profit organizations that can help as well.

A key role a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional plays is to “quarterback” coordination and collaboration between an individual’s advisors, such as their Attorney, CPA, or Insurance Agent.  Consider enlisting a CFP® professional to help bring your “team” together.

As always, feel free to share with others and make suggestions for future articles: peter.oneill@fiduciamwealth.com

Peter O'Neill