Welcome to the last of the posts from Sharon Marchisello’s archives. Last week she shared the lessons that she learnt from her frugal mother. This week the very important issue of keeping our elderly relatives safe with regard to their money should they become forgetful or worse develop dementia. Apart from mistakes there is also threats from those who prey on their vulnerability.
Protecting Memory-Impaired Loved Ones by Sharon Marchisello
I participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s every year and find comfort connecting with others who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s. Both my mother and my mother-in-law suffered from the disease.
One of the early symptoms of age-related dementia, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, is financial irresponsibility. A parent who used to meticulously record every expenditure in her checkbook one day stops. The person forgets to open the mail. Forgets to pay bills. Can’t come up with the correct change for a purchase.
I once observed my mother staring at a dividend check like she didn’t know what to do with it. Then she wadded it up and started to throw it away.
My mother-in-law cut the routing information off her annuity check before she deposited it. The bank bounced it. We had to call the insurance company to have the check reissued. Told them it must have been damaged in the mail. After she did it again, we set up direct deposit.
People with memory impairments–often seniors–are at risk of being scammed. Example: phone calls soliciting personal or financial information, claiming to be bill collectors or government officials. Unscrupulous contractors knocking on doors and insisting on doing work that isn’t needed. Or demanding payment for work that was never done.
Fortunately, neither my mother nor my mother-in-law used email, so they never wired money to Nigerian princes or clicked on attachments that unleashed a virus. They never fell victim to the scam by the caller who claims to be from Microsoft, offering to “fix” your computer remotely.
But my mother-in-law would receive 13-15 pieces of snail mail every day, mostly solicitations from fake charities or “tax” bills that looked like they came from the government. Her favorite letters were notifications from make-believe sweepstakes and foreign lotteries she hadn’t entered, stating she had won millions; she just needed to send them a check to cover the processing fee to claim her prize. She loved writing checks. And the more checks she’d write, the more mailing lists she’d inadvertently join.
Some of those crooked companies took the routing numbers off the check she’d written them and set up automatic withdrawals from her checking account, with the notation “signature on file.” It took us six months to stop one of them from charging her monthly for “prize verification.” Apparently there was some fine print on the form she signed to claim her supposed winnings (which she never received) giving them authorization to access her account on a regular basis to keep her “entry” in the sweepstakes active.
When we hid her checkbook, she called the credit union and ordered more checks.
Getting a parent to relinquish control of finances is a difficult transition. It’s a loss of independence, like giving up driving. It takes away dignity.
And if your name is not on the account and you don’t have power of attorney, the bank won’t help; you’re lucky if they’ll even talk to you. My mother-in-law’s credit union knowingly processed fraudulent debits to her checking account because the crooks could provide evidence that she had authorized them.
So how do you mitigate some of these problems?
We tried having the mail redirected, although a lot of junk mail like my mother-in-law received didn’t get forwarded. And the post office hesitates to stop it, because junk mail is a source of revenue for them.
Advance planning helps. Talk to your parents and your spouse before memory problems arise. Find out how they like to spend their money, such as what charities they support, whether they always buy lottery tickets, whether they do a lot of online shopping, etc., so it will be easier to recognize irregularities. Gather important financial documents so you’re aware of what the person owns and owes. I had been preparing my mother-in-law’s tax returns for many years, so we had a pretty good handle on her situation.
Request auto-pay for bills and direct deposit for income. Help the person set up online access to accounts and then ask if you can have the password for emergencies. My mother-in-law consented to this, although she sometimes accused me of “spying on her.”
Some insurance companies that sell life and long-term care policies suggest designating an individual to notify if a premium payment is missed. This can help keep important coverage from lapsing.
None of us knows what the future holds. Therefore, everyone should have a financial/durable power of attorney, as well as an advanced directive for healthcare, which designates someone you trust to make financial, and, respectively, healthcare decisions for you when you are unable. This will save your family members the time and expense of going to court to have you declared incapacitated so they can keep the lights on in your home and pay your medical bills.
These documents should be part of your estate planning, but you can also find simple forms online. Just print out and sign in front of two unbiased witnesses (who must also sign).
What tips do you have for protecting loved ones with memory impairments? I’d love to hear your comments.
About Sharon Marchisello
Sharon Marchisello is the author of “The Ghost on Timber Way,” part of a short story anthology entitled Mystery, Atlanta Style, featuring fellow Sisters in Crime members. She has published a personal finance e-book entitled Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy, as well as numerous travel articles, book reviews, and corporate training manuals.
Sharon grew up in Tyler, Texas, and earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston in French and English. She studied for a year in Tours, France, on a Rotary scholarship and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her Masters in Professional Writing at the University of Southern California. Now she lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, with her husband and cat.
Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, she does volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society. Going Home is her first published novel. The murder mystery was inspired by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, which prompted her to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who could not rely on her memory.
Books by Sharon Marchisello
One of the recent reviews for Live Well, Grow Wealth
Sometimes it can be hard for me to read books due too much going on with content, but Marchisello’s book was a really easy read for me. I can’t do complicated when it comes to books. She was really relate-able, because I didn’t grow up as a math centric person, and I also came from what would be considered a middle-class family. As a 27-year-old, her advice made me think about my life, and what I could be doing differently (therefore better!) with my money. She also changed the way I think about money. I don’t think a lot of people grow up to consider things like a big picture, or what’s going in and out. It kind of gave made better sense of what’s going on around me. A good perspective shift.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Sharon-Marchisello/e/B00NH6N4WK/
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sharon-Marchisello/e/B00NH6N4WK/
Read other reviews and follow Sharon on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4297807.Sharon_Marchisello
About the book
Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy is Personal Finance 101, a commonsense guide to shrinking your financial footprint. Sharon Marchisello compares managing your financial life to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, and in ten easy-to-follow steps, she shows ordinary people how to build wealth by living within their means without compromising their values.
The book is available from Smashwords: Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy
Connect to Sharon.
Blogspot : https://sharonmarchisello.blogspot.com/
Blog WordPress: https://smarchisello.wordpress.com/
Thank you for dropping in today and Sharon would love to have your feedback and questions about this very important issue.. Thanks Sally