Archive for the ‘dementia’ Category

7 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Financial Help

October 28, 2013
The Alzheimer’s Association says that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. If that weren’t bad enough, by 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to nearly triple.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take an advanced case of Alzheimer’s to disrupt one’s ability to manage money. The concentration and memory skills required for many financial tasks means that even those in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may find it impossible to keep their finances on track.
“Early stages (of dementia) involve forgetfulness,” says Kelly Thomas, a social worker with the Alpena Regional Medical Center and a nearly 20-year veteran in the field of home care. “By the time they are in the middle stages of dementia, they are already having financial problems.”
While it may often be obvious that a confirmed Alzheimer’s sufferer needs assistance, even those who haven’t been diagnosed with a specific type of dementia may need help with their finances as they age. If you see the following signs around your parents or other older relatives, it may be time to ask what you can do.

1. Overdraft and shut-off notices

If you see notices on the table when you come to visit or your parents complain about mounting bank fees, it could indicate they are no longer able to balance their checkbook or keep track of the due dates for their bills.

2. Growing credits on recurring bills

On the flip side, some individuals with dementia may end up with large credits on their bills. Since they don’t remember sending in a payment, they may send in multiple checks each month.

3. An empty bank account at the start of the month

If it is the start of the month and your parents have already burned through their money, they obviously have a money-management problem. If they don’t know where the money went, it could also be a sign of dementia.

4. Stacks of unopened mail or items filed in unusual places

When visiting, a stack of unopened mail is a red flag. Adult children should also watch for items stored or filed in curious places. If your parent is filing paperwork in a new or random spot, it that could be a sign they have either forgotten what to do with the paperwork or, for those with early dementia, are compensating for their forgetfulness by trying a new method of organization.

5. Uncharacteristic purchases

If your normally prudent parent suddenly buys a new car, flashy smartphone or other major purchase that doesn’t fit their needs or lifestyle, it could be an indication of slipping financial management skills caused by declining cognitive abilities.

6. Increased gambling

Thomas says she often sees gambling problems with seniors who have dementia. They may no longer be able to keep track of how much they have in their checking account or how much they have lost while playing. While spending a day at the casino may be normal behavior for some seniors, a change in habits could signal a bigger problem.

7. Strange mail and phone calls

Nicholas Reister, an attorney with Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says once a senior has started making poor financial choices, scammers can come out of the woodwork.
“Once there is some blood in the water, it seems to trigger all sorts of things,” says Reister. “Things looking like charity, things looking like offers to claim large prizes.”
Strange mail and an uptick in telephone solicitations may be a sign Mom and Dad are giving their money to the wrong people.

Options for stepping in

According to Reister, there are several ways to take over the finances for an aging parent.
  1. If a trust has been set up, a successor trustee may be able to step in and take over money management.
  2. If a durable power of attorney has been created (one is often drawn up at the same time as a will), the person appointed to that role can take over finances.
  3. If neither a trust nor a durable power of attorney exist, children can petition probate court for a conservator or guardian to be appointed.
Both Thomas and Reister say it’s always best to set up these types of arrangements with your parents long before you think there may be a problem. If you wait too long, a parent may no longer be deemed legally competent to create a trust or name a power of attorney. That leaves adult children with the only other option: going to court.

Starting the conversation

Conversations about money can be awkward for adult children and parents alike. Children may want tackle less sensitive topics like health insurance and long-term care preferences before jumping straight into a discussion of day-to-day finances.
When it is time to talk money, Thomas says new estate recovery laws may make some seniors warm up to creating a trust in advance. Some estate recovery laws now require the sale of a house to reimburse the state for Medicaid care. Children can research the laws in their state and use that knowledge to open a discussion. Parents who may otherwise be defensive about discussing money may open up if they know the family house could be in jeopardy, Thomas says.
“Most (seniors’) main concern is staying in their house, followed by giving it to their children,” she says.
If you see signs that your parents are not managing their money well, Thomas recommends first ruling out other medical issues, such as vision and hearing problems, before assuming they have dementia. In addition, she notes some conditions such as bladder infections can cause symptoms that mimic dementia. A complete physical should be able to rule out other causes of an apparent mental decline.
Finally, Reister cautions adult children to tread lightly when helping their parents. Asking your parents if you can help them open the mail and balance the checkbook can be a respectful way to offer assistance. Hiding their checkbook or even removing it from the house, while a tempting strategy for some, is theft.
“Kids should only take the most minimally intrusive steps needed,” says Reister, noting that seniors are still adults and have been for many, many years.
His final word on handling aging parents is one that all adult children may do well to remember: “Protect them with dignity.”

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7 signs your aging parent needs financial help

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7 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Financial Help

Bergenfield senior found, but a troubling trend grows

August 27, 2013
Donald Wicklund

Last Wednesday, Connie  Wicklund was downstairs in her Bergenfield home when she heard a main-floor door open and shut. Her husband, Donald, had likely taken the trash out, she reasoned.
But when she came upstairs, he was gone, sparking what started as a desperate search by family and friends — and then early the next morning by law enforcement.

Those four days of anguish and uncertainty ended happily early Sunday evening when Wicklund, 81, was found in a back yard less than seven houses away from his own home. He was “conscious and verbal” but “dehydrated and malnourished,” police said.

The 5:51 p.m. discovery was sparked in part by a reverse emergency call the police initiated on Sunday — the third since Wicklund was first reported missing at 12:34 a.m. on Thursday — asking residents to check their back yards.

One of Wicklund’s neighbors, following the police advice, found a shoe next to a koi pond in his back yard. Upon further investigation, the neighbor located Wicklund and called 911, said Capt. Cathy Madalone.

Madalone said dogs had helped search that area before Sunday.

“He was probably trying to get back home,” she said late Sunday. “We don’t know for sure. We are waiting for him to get back from the hospital, and we are waiting for him to be coherent enough to speak with him.”

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Bergenfield senior found, but a troubling trend grows

The 5 Most Controversial Decisions Alzheimer’s Caregivers Will Ever Face

August 20, 2013

1. Should the Person Stop Driving?

Late one evening, I was deeply immersed in editing the photographs I’d taken at the Cincinnati Zoo that day when I was startled by the phone ringing. I thought it was probably Ed, my Romanian life partner and soul mate.

But it wasn’t. It was a sweet female voice I didn’t recognize calling to tell me she’d found Ed driving on the wrong side of the road. He’d pulled over and so she’d stopped too, and seeing how confused he was, she offered him a ride home.

Suddenly, I realized the cold hard truth: He could no longer drive safely. My heart sank and I told him very quietly that he had to stop driving.

Sooner or later, driving becomes a problem for all people with Alzheimer’s. There are usually many warning signs that it is no longer safe for them to be driving. The Alzheimer’s Association lists five primary ones:

  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Becoming angry or confused while driving

I would add two obvious items to this list: Causing an accident or running into another car while parking.

When loved ones exhibit one or more of these, it’s time to get them to stop driving. This will be one of the most difficult actions you will ever have to take. We all cherish the independence of being able to drive anywhere we want — any time we want — and people with Alzheimer’s are no exception.

It’s highly likely that you will face all manner of resistance, but you are ultimately responsible for getting the person to stop driving, one way or another.

2. Should the Person Be Placed in a Long-Term Care Facility?

Placing a loved one with Alzheimer’s in a long-term care facility is highly controversial. The vast majority of families don’t want to do it, and many refuse to even think about it. Some feel it’s the most cruel, shameful thing they could possibly do to their loved one, even if they have access to a high-quality facility nearby.

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The 5 Most Controversial Decisions Alzheimer’s Caregivers Will Ever Face

For wife shut out by husband with dementia, ‘a horror story’

July 22, 2013

Bunny Garst (center) and her sister-in-law
Mary Sheppard (left)

If there’s such a thing as a typical marriage, Bunny and Claflin Garst’s has never been one.

When they were introduced 42 years ago at a Bradenton real estate closing, they didn’t think all that much of each other. She had just moved from New York, and wondered what kind of grown man would wear a short-sleeve shirt and a tie. He, in turn, was leery of the female broker in her citified business suit.
But the next time they met, she had on a bikini. “He liked that a lot better,” she recalls.
The longtime Manatee County judge, son of a prominent ranching family, and the divorcee with two children kept company for 11 years before tying the knot. Yet even as a married couple, they didn’t always sleep under the same roof; she preferred her comfortable beach house to his spartan buffalo ranch.
But Bunny Garst, now 80, says she cooked, cleaned and cared for her husband through almost 30 years of marriage. She expected to keep doing so when his progressive dementia got out of hand in 2010.
Instead, she maintains, in the space of a morning quarrel he turned against her, refusing afterward to let her help him or even speak to him.
Today, after a bruising legal fight, the state of Florida controls Claflin Garst’s fate. He has a personal lawyer and a professional guardian, who also has a lawyer — each earning fees that come out of his assets. Those assets also paid legal costs for two people who competed for the right to take care of him.

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For wife shut out by husband with dementia, ‘a horror story’

New Virginia Law Aims To Help Elderly Victims

July 18, 2013

Every year there are more than 1,000 cases of financial exploitation of adults in the State of Virginia. The sad reality is elderly individuals are at a great risk of being taken advantage of by caregivers, including both professionals and relatives. Thankfully, legislators in Virginia recently passed a new law that is designed to help reduce that number.

The new law, which was implemented as of July 1, 2013, creates a criminal penalty for those who aim to take financial advantage of seniors. The law specifically states that it is a crime to financially exploit any mentally incapacitated adults.

One tragic case highlights the dangers of financial exploitation and involved a woman, Jeannie Beidler, who says her uncle financially exploited her grandparents, both of whom were suffering from dementia. Beidler says her uncle was their live-in caretaker and not only financially abused them, but also subjected them to physical abuse and neglect. The uncle would let the elderly couple sit around in their own waste for days while he forced Beidler’s grandmother to write him blank checks.

Once the scheme was finally uncovered the uncle was arrested and charged with abuse and neglect, but there was no crime for the financial exploitation he had engaged in. Now that the new law has been passed future cases will allow prosecutors to go after those people who preyed on vulnerable seniors in their time of need.

Sadly, stories of seniors being scammed out of the money it took them a lifetime of hard work to earn are increasingly common. According to a study by MetLife, incidents of elder financial fraud increased by 12% from 2008 to 2010, amounting to a whopping $2.9 billion in stolen money.

There are a lot of reasons why seniors are such attractive targets for financial crime. Experts say that those over the age of 50 control over 70% of the country’s wealth, yet many may not realize the true value of the property they possess. As elders become more physically frail, they may not see or hear as well or think as clearly as they used to, leaving openings for unscrupulous people to take advantage of them. As a group, the elderly are also likely to suffer from disabilities that make them dependent on others for help. These “helpers” may have nearly limitless access to the assets of their victims, and often exert powerful influence over the senior.

Though financial exploitation is bad enough, the fact is financial crime often goes hand in hand with other kinds of senior abuse. In many cases, caregivers who try and steal money from an elderly person have also been found to have either physically abused or neglected them.

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New Virginia Law Aims To Help Elderly Victims

Seniors with dementia express themselves, connect with others in drumming circle

June 23, 2013

Standing in a room full of lined faces, Alan Yello­witz held up an orange drum shaped like a wineglass. “This one’s called a djembe,” he said. “It’s from Ghana.”

The 30 or so people watching him had, combined, amassed hundreds of years of living, although their recollection of those years was fading. Many stared off blankly, perhaps unable to remember what Ghana is. But one 85-year-old woman started tapping her hand on her thigh.

“Give it a try,” Yellowitz said, quickly placing a three-foot-high drum beside her and handing her a mallet.

Yellowitz and his business partner, Adam Mason, are the guys behind The Beat Goes On, a Fairfax County-based organization that brings drum circles — more commonly associated with college campuses and hippie gatherings — to seniors.

On a recent day, they unpacked about 60 percussion instruments in an activities room at Arden Courts Memory Care Community in Annandale, a residence for people with dementia — including many who have Alzheimer’s disease. The collection featured a “talking drum” from Senegal with strings on the sides that can be used to create a “wah-wah” effect, an “ocean drum” that sounded like crashing waves, and an array of wooden spoons, coconut shells and tambourines.

As they bantered with the residents, Yellowitz and Mason handed out drums and mallets and affixed lightweight drum heads to walkers. “We turn walkers into drum sets all the time,” Mason assured them, and soon everyone had something to beat on.

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Seniors with dementia express themselves, connect with others in drumming circle