Updated: Jul 13, 2021
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Sadly seniors are a popular target for scammers. This can be anything from dating scams, to alarming robo-calls or emails, to door to door salesmen who sell their wares in an unscrupulous manner. I know just how painful and embarrassing this can be. I know because I was caught up in one. And, it always goes the same way-dishonest representation resulting in the crooks making lots of money.
I was duped…and so are thousands of other people so don’t be ashamed any more if it’s happened to you. What I was told just wasn’t true. It’s not that I am too old and doddy to know better. Seniors are not desperate and needy as some might assume. But when you ask legitimate questions and are misled and lied to anyone could fall prey. So, it’s very important that we not only know the warning signs but that we have a plan in place to safeguard us now and in the future. And please don’t be afraid to talk about this. There are shady schemes new every day. The more we converse and share information, the safer we will be.
The safety plan we build now should include so much more than our finances. It should be about preserving our dignity and our wishes as we age. When mature folks are taken advantage of it can take the shape of a variety of behaviours: family or friends constantly borrowing money without paying it back, family or friends constantly taking money from your purse or wallet or taking items from your home, frequent use of you as babysitter with little regard for your time, bullying you into what others want you to do, no consideration of your desires, and a general sense that you are being used without a voice in the matter.
So considering your own specific circumstances, may I suggest that you sit down with your closest, most trusted family members, likely your children, one or more, and create the plan. Just remember that when too many people get involved it will be more complicated so I’d suggest no more than two others. There’ll also have to be complete trust all around to make this both viable and feasible. This may well require several such mini conferences on an ongoing basis. And of course, this is best developed before there is a crisis, before the need for it arises. It’s about mitigating risk factors.
The purpose of this exercise is to produce a living document which respects you and honours your wishes while it safeguards your interests both emotionally and financially. I repeat, it demands trust from all parties. It just won’t work otherwise. You must be confident that everyone involved wants only the best for you while allowing you the freedom to choose for yourself. But it must also include full disclosure from everyone. It may well result in frank suggestions that you’ll agree to heed, and conversely, you need to feel free and unafraid or unashamed to speak up when the need arises. You need to know you are being heard when you have a concern. This document needs to be about lovingly supporting you as you age. It’s meant to keep you from moving into unsafe, unwanted territory as time goes by. This is not about your will, your power of care or power of attorney, all vital necessities that you should also otherwise attend to with a lawyer.
The following are just a few suggested guidelines to enable the process. Record every point and date it. Formalizing this document makes the commitment more valid and real, rather than just a discussion that might soon be forgotten or misinterpreted.
1/ Acknowledge that those involved have only the best intentions because they love you…and have them agree to same without personal gain of any kind.
2/ Commit to keeping each other completely informed. Total transparency is vital with those involved especially before giving any money to a stranger or anyone you just recently met. Agree to tell each other the whole story.
3/ Never jeopardize your finances by daring to live beyond your means which includes not just possible tricksters but also extravagant or frivolous purchases or giving loans to anyone.
4/ Differentiate between needs and wants and spend accordingly always prioritizing needs of course. Include these points and openly discuss them.
5/ Never make a pact based on guilt.
6/ Set very clear limits, or at least your suggested parameters, on tasks you will assist with i.e. babysitting, etc. and those you won’t. i.e. will you loan your car?
7/ State your desires succinctly allowing for daily life to loosen the rigid edges.
8/ Never act based on emotions. Always seek the truth and ask loads of questions.
9/ Refuse to be bullied or manipulated.
10/ Always take a step back to consider a situation. Refuse to act in haste.
11/ Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into signing something. They might tell you that it’s a now or never deal but always allow yourself time for due diligence.
12/Always discuss fully your boundaries on your own time, space and personal items.
Specific circumstances may arise at any time which might impact the outcome of the agreement. We have no right to limit other people, even those closest to us. But, we do have a responsibility if they ask us to protect them as they age. Creating this type of agreement may save you a ton of heartache and prevent a world of hurt. This is about asking for help to deal with something before it becomes a serious problem. It can happen to anyone.