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Elderly Dad receives a pile of mail each day, most solicit money

My Dad daily receives solicitations for money by mail and by phone. He opens and reads every one, which fills his empty hours, but the problem is the requests for money seem to be coming for larger and larger funds, some in the $100's. By phone he will promise a donation to "satisfy" them. We see his checkbook out not knowing how often he's writing checks or in what amounts unless he speaks of it, be it $25, $50 or more.
As family, we discourage most donations, suggesting pre-determining what and where to give to, and that those be limited to a handful yearly.
But so far, Dad is only disuaded to donate "in the moment" as we speak of the solicitor on the phone's request.
We do recognize there are worthy and honorable organizations and church and community places to help out that need donations to sustain their good works. Where, though does the line get drawn between worthy organizations those who "prey on elderly"??
For our family, Dad is losing his memory, and losing his checkbook over and over, and he will repeat what he does or where he goes, and is becoming confused more often. It wasn't that many years since Dad was convinced to sign papers without a lawyer's review. That "crook" took him for over $100,000. With this daily inch and a half pile of solicitations in his mailbox, we are beginning to think of those solicitors as "crooks" too, prying money from the elderly on fixed incomes.
I have a 3-part question.
1) How can we cut down on this amount of mailed requests for money?
2) The phone rings, Dad answers talking to whom ever is on the line, always has and always will, doesn't understand caller ID.
3) When and How do we intervene with Dad's checkbook? Dad has always been private about his checkbook money. As a family we are concerned about how much of his needed funds are given to solicitors. Then, too there is Dad's confusion and memory loss. It's hard to know where to draw the line.
Status: Open    Jan 16, 2017 - 08:15 AM

Other, Finance

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Jan 19, 2017 - 09:51 AM

This is not an uncommon problem at all. In fact, there are tons of statistics on elder financial abuse, and a recognition that the thinking required to handle one's finances is a barometer for a dementia diagnosis. It has been referred to as Age Associated Financial Vulnerability (google it) and is becoming recognized as a national mental health crisis.

1. Cutting down on mail. Write to the Direct Marketing Association, or visit DMAChoice.org. This will eventually remove his name from reputable mailing lists. But those he has donated to can still solicit. Next you have to write to each sender and request removal. I recommend PaperKarma to speed the job. Unfortunately organizations sell their lists, especially names of small donors. So it never really ends without constant vigilance, but you can slow it down quite a bit.

2. Phone calls are harder unless you want to screen all of his calls. If he has VOIP (Triple play type package with voice), there are a number of options that might help a little. Some phones can announce the caller, but convincing him not to answer is the problem. There are phones on the market that limit incoming calls to a restricted list...you could set it up and give as a "gift". Some have programmable buttons with pics for dialing out.

3. Does your father have a Power of Attorney? If he has done this, or is still willing, then it is much easier to take over finances when the time comes. Otherwise, you have to convince him or take away the tools for spending. There is a card, TruLink, that allows restricted spending, which can give him some limited spending ability, but blocks those not on the 'list'. Guardianship is a last resort as it is expensive, time-consuming, and public. An estate attorney can help with this.

As a Daily Money Manager(DMM), I hear about these issues all too often. Sometimes parents won't let their kids take over, but are willing to let an outside professional help if the approach is made respectfully. In cases like this, it can be an overwhelming chore for families. I don't know your location but you can find a local DMM by searching www.AADMM.com. Dementia is heartbreaking and I wish you luck and patience.

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Comments (2) | New Comment

By Rhonda Harper on Jan 20, 2017 - 01:40 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Janice's answer above provides a terrific overview of potential solutions. You may also want to obtain Power of Attorney over some or all of his affairs. Then, change his mail to your address and put a forwarding number on his phone.

By usheroes on Jan 21, 2017 - 07:27 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

When my Dad's dementia got to the point where he couldn't pay the bills, we set up a P.O. box. I have Power of Attorney so wasn't hard to get his mail rerouted. You can pick up his mail at the post office, throw away anything that isn't beneficial, and bring his bills home. Maybe even put them in his mailbox and let him get them from there if he is able to still pay his own bills.

Also, my name is on his checking account, so I either pay bills or set them up online to pay, which is what we eventually had to do as he declined. Getting yourself set up on his accounts while he is able to consent is very important as dementia can progress quickly.

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