The A Place for Mom Q&A Community frequently receives financial questions, especially in regards to charitable giving and unwise financial investments. Recently, the subject of age-associated financial vulnerability — described in the following question — is becoming increasingly popular as seniors age and sales techniques become more sophisticated.
Read more about age-associated financial vulnerability and find out if you or your family is at risk.
“My Dad receives solicitations for money daily, 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…”</blockquote>
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Have you or a loved one encountered this type of situation with your senior parent before?
It has been long known that an early sign of dementia can be the loss of ability to manage one’s finances or to make sound financial decisions. However, research has shown that functional changes in the brain as well as environmental factors may cause difficulties in money management in the absence of any cognitive or physical illness.
“Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability (AAFV)” is a proposed clinical classification which defines a pattern of behavior likely to lead to adverse financial consequences. Behaviors related to AAFV could be related to dementia or memory loss, but in many cases may not be disease related at all but instead a natural result of changes in the brain as we age. Researchers Dr. Mark Lachs of Weill Cornell Medical College and Duke Han of Rush University Medical Center, feel that giving a name to this set of financial behaviors will provide a framework for discussions with physicians, a guide for public policy makers and a starting point for further research.
Risk Factors of Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability
Risk factors for AAFV may include cognitive impairment due to physical changes in the brain, long term illnesses or medication side effects.
Seniors who are socially isolated may be at a higher risk for loneliness and the desire to connect with another person — even if it is a salesman on the phone.
Socially isolated parents and seniors also do not have many family or friends to step in when their financial security is compromised.
How do I know if my loved one is experiencing Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability?
- Are bills being paid on time?
- Are your parents spending a large amount of money gambling in hopes that they will strike it rich and solve all of their problems?
- Are your parents taking part in dubious marketing schemes?
- Does the checking account have unusual activity or overdrafts?
- Is there an unusual amount of money being spent on donations?
One of the key criteria for AAFV is that the new financial behavior be inconsistent with how the senior has dealt with money in the past. If your parent had large amounts of debt and poor financial management in middle age, they are likely just continuing that learned behavior as a senior.
How do I help someone with Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability?
- Cut down on the amount of junk mail. Contact the Direct Marketing Association at DMAChoice.org and ask to be removed from mailing lists, this will take time and probably won’t stop everything but it will reduce the amount of mail received. Keep in mind that any company that has had prior contact with the senior will not be removed without contacting the company directly.
- Discuss phone solicitation dangers. Seniors grew up in a time that a ringing phone almost always meant that a friend or family member was calling. Convincing them not to answer the phone unless they know the person calling can be difficult. Caller ID works for some seniors, for others who are more impaired you may want to invest in a phone that restricts inbound and outbound calls to a preprogrammed contact list. Add all landline and cell phones to the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Encourage seniors to stay active and engaged so that social and emotional risk factors for AAFV are minimized.
- If all else fails you may have to take a very active part in managing your loved one’s finances. If your name is on his/her checking account you can keep an eye on what is going out so that you know when intervention is necessary. If a financial power of attorney agreement is in place now may be the time to take over the financial responsibilities.
AAFV may be caused by either aging or cognitive disorders, but in either case the doctor’s office may be the best place to start discussing financial capabilities much the same way as driving ability and home safety.
Categorizing these behaviors into a single paradigm allows caregivers, doctors and family members to know what to watch for so that assistance or intervention can be provided in a timely manner.
Have you dealt with age-associated financial vulnerability in a parent before? What has your experience been like? We’d like to hear more about your story in the comments below.
Angel Ridout has been a content writer and SEO editor at A Place for Mom since 2012. She’s put her psychology degree to use working in residential care homes in Washington and writing about mental illness in the elderly. She loves interacting with families and professionals dedicated to seniors’ well-being and sharing their experiences.