Seniors Facing Cognitive Decline Need Responsible Financial Care from Banks, Families, and Community Providers

Seniors Facing Cognitive Decline Need Responsible Financial Care Full
The biggest threat to seniors’ financial security does not come from anonymous con artists. It comes from their own children.

Many cases begin with the child managing an ailing parent’s finances or receiving financial assistance from the parent during a difficult time. Some of these children then call on their parents for increasingly large sums of money simply to pay bills or purchase expensive items, leaving their parents bankrupt and unable to care for themselves. This abuse can be exacerbated by a child being granted power of attorney over their aging parent, which grants them complete control over the parent’s finances. Banks have developed some mechanisms to prevent this kind of abuse, including experimenting with a limited form of power of attorney. Within families, Barron’s recommends parents and children talk frequently and transparently about where parents’ finances are going, and that multiple family members manage parents’ savings to hold each other accountable.

Regardless of age, elderly adults should be respected and allowed to maintain their financial agency, while working closely with chosen family members who can help them responsibly maintain their finances. The Guardianship Project (TGP), a demonstration project of Vera, works hard to prevent financial exploitation among our elderly clients. When TGP is appointed by the court as guardian, TGP’s finance associates review clients’ past finances and, when appropriate, investigate whether any financial abuse has occurred. Our case managers visit clients at least once a month to check on their physical and mental health, alerting us to any health problems that could affect their ability to manage their finances, or any attempts to defraud them.

To better understand if someone you know needs help with their finances, assess the situation by talking with their friends, family, and doctors. Also be sure to look for anything unusual, like bills piling up in their home and letters from collections agencies, and ask about recent large payments or deductions. Banks and care providers are also beginning to train their staff on how to spot signs of dementia and financial abuse. As with many health concerns, early detection of cognitive decline and understanding how to manage it is the best method to prevent an elderly person from financial abuse.