April 17, 2017 – DEAR DEMENTIA SOLUTIONS:
“My older sister and I suspect that our other sister has been asking our mum, who has dementia, for financial assistance. We both have Power of Attorney for our mum, and as we see her bank account slowly dwindling, we’re becoming increasingly concerned. Our worries have only intensified since our mum suddenly wanted to add our sister on as a Power of Attorney. We don’t want to accuse our sister of something we don’t have proof of, and she and our mum are close, but we’re uncomfortable with her accessing our mum’s finances. What should we do?”
~ Money Woes
DEAR MONEY WOES:
Money matters can, at times, cause family friction, and when it does, it’s important to take a deep breath and take the time to think calmly about what the best approach may be.
To start, ask yourself some key questions: Is your mum making an informed decision? Does she understand what a Power of Attorney (POA) is and what it would mean if she added on your sister as a POA?
Inform her that adding another POA may cause unnecessary confusion. Is your sister also aware of what the role entails? Does she know that as a POA she can’t spend her mum’s money without your approval as well?
Education is a great antidote to any problem — so check whether your mum and sister have a proper understanding of what they would be doing and help them fill any “POA knowledge gaps” as they arise.
Putting a limit on daily withdrawals from your mum’s account may also be a possible option. If you’re worried about your sister’s reaction to this, explain to her in advance the reasoning behind the decision is to protect your mum’s future while using a tone that is kind, calm and respectful.
Keep in mind, your sister may be going through financial difficulties and not know where else to turn for support. Perhaps have a chat with your mum about how your sister is doing and whether she’s grappling with any financial troubles.
I recall one family who went through something similar. What they did was make an alternative arrangement by granting one of the siblings a monthly allowance for a set number of months. If your mum agrees to any particular plan like this, make sure to document it in writing and have her sign it as well, as her dementia may cause her to forget about it otherwise.
If your sister inquires about why she wasn’t added as a POA, your mum will be better able to recall the reason for the decision and she will also be able to see that she did agree to it and sign it.
Though it may be challenging and rocky at times, you are doing the right thing by seeking to take action and reaching out for advice. A financial adviser and especially a lawyer or notary are always encouraged as they will have the expertise to properly support you and your family. I wish you and your family the very best!
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Karen Tyrell CDP, CPCA, is a Dementia Consultant, Educator, Author & Advocate, and Founder of Personalized Dementia Solutions Inc. (www.dementiasolutions.ca). Karen offers her expertise on dementia care through speaking engagements, workshops and by working one-on-one with families and caregivers to provide emotional support and practical solutions.
The contents of this column are provided for information purposes only. They are not intended to replace clinical diagnosis or medical advice from a health professional. For any health related issue, always seek medical advice first from a trained medical professional.