How our aging brains fail us.

How our aging brains fail us.

aging brainWhile caring for two parents with different forms of dementia, I tried to understand how I could better help them. In doing so, I also found a ton of research about the how and why we may not recognize our own failings when it comes to managing our finances and day-to-day lives.

 

What I finally came to learn was that my parents were unable to perceive they were making poor decisions and just yearned for independence and control over their own lives.

 

Turns out, that our aging brains make us more vulnerable as we age. We perceive people as more trustworthy. I would have thought the school of hard knocks would actually make us trust people less. Apparently that is not what the science tells us. 

You can read the full report: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

 

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability. Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

 

I am seeing how some unscrupulous home services vendors are taking advantage of older adults. An elderly neighbor paid a plumber over $7,000 for some minor repairs that were later assessed to cost around $1,200 by a Master Plumber. He had no idea that the work should not cost that much until he showed me the invoices. He lives on his own and was just trying to keep his home in good repair. Unfortunately, there are no protections in the Commonwealth of Virginia against predatory pricing … nor in many states. Once you sign the agreement and they do the work, there is little you can do. 

There may come a time when we might need someone to at least bounce things off of. At minimum, it will help to always ask for at least two bids for any work estimates over $500. That little extra effort may save you thousands of dollars. 

Three things you can do to protect yourself from fraud.

fraudprotectioniconThe number of institutions that have our data and that been hacked is only growing. The reality is that a lot of our personal information has probably been sold or can be found on the “dark web” used by these crooks.

We have the ability to defend our selves — the fact is that most people don’t do the basics to help themselves. In my role as a Daily Money Manager, I have stop being shocked by the number of auto-debits from subscription services my clients aren’t using and often don’t even know about that are on their credit card statements. To make bill-paying easy they set up auto-payments to make sure the bill got paid. However, that using results in the habit of ignoring the monthly review of your statement.

I also don’t recommend that you set up auto-debits from your checking account either. Instead of giving what amounts to a limited “power of attorney” to come into your account and take out the money you owe, set up automated payments you PUSH OUT from the account using the bill pay portal. While these direct from your checking account systems work well for many American’s, I was behind a man at the bank who had set this up for his mortgage. The payments kept being pulled after he sold his home and now he couldn’t pay his new mortgage. He was told that they only way to stop it was to close down his bank account. What a headache.

I had a similar issue with a charity pulling money from a clients’ account and thankfully, we were able to have them voluntarily terminate the automated transfer. It took MANY phone calls and follow-ups, but finally they stopped. It was a reputable charity, but they have little incentive to respond to requests to terminate donations.

Three things you can do to make sure you don’t become a victim of fraud is:

  1. Religiously review your credit card statements and address issues immediately.
  2. Monitor your checking account and balance your checkbook. I’ve recently seen a check for $2,000 debited for $3,000.
  3. Check your credit reports at least once a year and report any inaccuracies. If you aren’t at a point in your life to need credit, I would consider freezing or locking your credit. To learn more about that you can view this article.

A final step to protect yourself is to make sure you are not using your DEBIT card for any online purchases. Only use a Credit Card that offers the fraud protections should your card number be compromised.

You have the power to protect yourself, but it requires your attention.

The Subtle Forms of Elder Abuse Family Members Miss

The Subtle Forms of Elder Abuse Family Members Miss

fraudYour loved one wants to stay in their home and you are concerned. Over and over, I’m finding that even my clients who have involved adult children are victims of some subtle forms of elder abuse that is stealing away hundreds to thousands of dollars a month of their parent’s money.

In the past month, I’ve had a client that got taken by a face cream offer. She does not have any cognitive issues and is now caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s. She never managed the money, so she asked me to step in to help her understand and manage the cash flow and help with budgeting since the expenses are starting to escalate with her husband’s care. When we started to review the credit card, I asked her what Lye Ludermacell was. She said it was a “free” face cream trial where she paid for shipping. Well, there was more than $200 of other charges for products on her credit card. She was very angry, as have been several thousands of clients taken in by the same scam. Michelle Singletary (The Washington Post) wrote about it earlier this month. We called to cancel and recouped 75% of the charges on the products she had received. We discussed how ANY offer, no matter how credible looking that says FREE and then asks for a credit card is trouble.  Had we not looked through her credit card billing item by item, she may not have noticed for months–if even at all.  So many older adults just set the bill on auto-pay and don’t scan the monthly bills. That is a very dangerous habit when so many individuals and even organizations are working to get to your money.

A few months ago, I spent more than 45 minutes with Juno trying to cancel the service for dial-up Internet my client was still paying for. She just never thought to question the monthly $9.95 billing for Juno even though she had wifi in her house. We also found a “free shipping” subscription billing her $25 monthly she had no idea how to use or what it was. So Juno took over $1,000 of her money and the shipping subscription had been billing her for two years for more than $600 of her money. I have ten zillions ways I could spend $1,600!

The one issue that is troubling me the most is for a client with mild cognitive impairment who generally is doing fine living at home. Not only is his daughter involved, but I visit him twice a week and we have an Aging Life Care Manager Another who is helping manage his medical visits and medications. When I noticed he had a physical therapy (PT) appointment on his schedule and neither his daughter or the Aging Life Care Manager knew about it, I made a point to stop by during his next PT session at home. It turns out that six months ago, his doctor recommended PT and they had an agency come in for a few weeks. It was determined after a few visits that he didn’t need it any longer.

So here’s the dirty underbelly of health care — somehow the first company passed the order to an affiliate who called my client to say the doctor ordered PT and started scheduling both PT and Occupational Therapy appointments (medication management). When I shared what I found, his daughter quickly called to shut down the service and cancel all future appointments, but the first few visits were billed to his Medicare account. Technically, the health care agency was implementing the doctors order, but it was already determined he didn’t need the services by the first therapist.

It’s the small issues that can add up making someone with cognitive issues living alone incredibly tricky. You want them to maintain the independence and lead the life they want, but you are faced with a number of risks from safety and fraud that mean another choice might be better.  

You may want to consider bringing in a Daily Money Manager who is skilled at helping protect an individuals’ financial interests. You can find one in your area here.

Is some of the unclaimed $58 billion yours?

Is some of the unclaimed $58 billion yours?

Find out if some of the unclaimed money is rightfully yours!

Dealing with Dementia

bag of moneyMost American’s are unaware that $58 billion is sitting in state and federal treasuries — it’s money that got lost in the shuffle of a move, crisis and even death. As a caregiver, you should know about the MissingMoney.org website. You can do one search and see if any of your loved ones money ended up in a state treasury. Every year, I do a quick search to see if anything slipped through the cracks. A few years ago, we found a record for my dad and claimed $2,500. Turns out, something was left behind in Kansas when we moved away in 1969.

Given the amount of accounts you accumulate today, it’s easy to understand how easy it might be to forget about a stock certificate, utility deposit, or even a small retirement account. I even found some of my money that was for an overpayment to the county water utility…

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Named to Top Alzheimer’s Blogs of 2016

Named to Top Alzheimer’s Blogs of 2016

Had my parent’s had a road map to their personal information, I would have been able to spend more time with them and not dealing with chaos I faced in trying to step in to help them. Most of us don’t have this in place, but I hope you will consider that doing this will immediately benefit you, and your loved ones should they need to step in and help. A simple tool to get started can be found in most bookstores called “MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life”.

Dealing with Dementia

topblogsMy first blog post was on February 1, 2012. I had been a watchful daughter and knew something was wrong, but even after two family meetings (all of my siblings flew in and we shared our concerns together over dinner), my parents were not interested in making any changes to their lives. At one point I had given up, but my siblings convinced me to keep trying. I started to try different tactics, which in the beginning was just finding more ways to engage with my parents on a daily basis. My first blog post is about my dad who got lost driving to my home, a drive he had taken hundreds of times previously. Looking back, my blog really doesn’t start at the beginning, but it does start at the point when most families and friends realize they need to help.

Healthline, a consumer health information website with 65…

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When Should I Share Digital Assets?

When Should I Share Digital Assets?

Writing down your usernames and passcodes not only will benefit you immediately (think of all the time you waste resetting passcodes), but will benefit your loved ones should they ever need to step in and help you.

Dealing with Dementia

digitalkeyWhen I hear people raise concern over sharing their passcodes with a spouse or loved one, I immediately feel a pang in my gut. I don’t understand and too often loved ones have to deal with the consequences.

There was a period early on as I was stepping in to help, when financial institutions refused to accept the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). USAA and Fidelity were two of the first refusals I faced. We didn’t have an ongoing relationship with the attorney who drafted the DPOA and I didn’t think we could update it because my parent’s had both been diagnosed with different types of dementia. Both firms said they wouldn’t accept a DPOA that was more than two (Fidelity) or five (USAA) years old. Ummmm. What part of “durable” did they not understand?

Later, when we looped a geriatrician in to help with mom and dad’s care, he…

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Untangling a Loved Ones Affairs

How easily could you step in to help a loved one if they needed your help?

Dealing with Dementia

tangledThe Wall Street Journal reported on the The Difficult, Delicate, Untangling of Our Parents Financial Lives. It chronicles the arduous journey the author and his wife faced when they needed to help their parents.

Many of us already know this story, and I’m both happy and sad to see this issue getting more attention. I believe it all comes down to what we are going to do differently.

What I don’t see being addressed by the media or by the American Bar Association or any of the Estate Law or Elder Care groups is an education on the value of having a Durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directives in place.  These documents are meant for the living and really offer us a Plan B should we face even a temporary incapacity and want our loved ones to be able to truly help. So I am going to keep…

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