Boomers your parents need your input and protection against all kinds of shadiness. If he or she lives alone then they are subject to phone calls about getting credit cards, buying insurance—life and health, and reverse mortgages to name a few. Now imagine your mom or pop trying to negotiate with a less than professional “agent” whose only job is to get paid. They are not thinking about what is best; don’t care about what’s best. Their job is to intimidate and confuse the elder into making a purchase by any means necessary.
This is where you come in as a caregiver. You have to devise ways to safeguard you parent from these scam artists. Here are a few suggestions: Communicate often and clearly asking specific questions about making any kind of purchase, 2) Arm your parents with combat skills, as they need to know how to disarm these swindlers and 3) Devise a system or protocol for making major decisions.
Consistent and effective communication will always be at the heart of a good relationship. So, you want to be sure to that someone (you or a sibling or cousin) stay in communication with your aging parent one or twice a week. If you have to give each of you a day to call or go by. It is during the weekly visits that you ask mom or dad about any interesting phone calls or cold call visits.
You may even want to have a kitchen-table meeting where you guys share with the elder about scams—giving him/her instructions on how to deal with salespeople or how not to deal with them. This brings us to the second sort of boot camp training. Whatever you do make sure you speak clearly and that your parent understands you.
Disarming scam artists
In this conversation, you want to arm mom/dad with a plan to help him/her deal with the tactics of salespeople. You might simply give instructions to not talk to anyone trying to sell anything. This will end any effort of the sales person’s scheme. Other ways to disarm the process is for the elderly to pretend not to comprehend what is being offered. We use to call this “playing dumb.” With this sort of tactic, the salesperson will most like abandon the attempt. In the same vein, you might even get the elder to filibuster. In this tactic, the elder will tell one story after another not allowing the sales person to get a word in. Have her/him talk about a hobby, a personal concern, the good ‘ol days, or a bible or other faith-based lesson. You’ll need to practice this a few times, although I suspect that this will not be that difficult for them to do.
Devising a decision-making protocol
Agree on a process for making decisions—any kind. The process may be that the two of you decide that no decisions are made without talking about it. Or you may decide that the elder leaves all the decision-making up to the family attorney or to you. You may agree that the elder calls you or one of the other caregivers whenever they are thinking of doing something. Finally, you may consider being a co-owner of all major assets so that no major exchanges can be executed without your signature. Brainstorm and double check all ideas to make sure that you consider as many angles to take care of your parent as possible.
So, understand that caregiving for elderly parents covers many areas of their lives and you want to make sure that you are considering ways to protect your loved ones from the potential loss of their possessions. The last thing either of you needs at this point in your lives is to be subject to losses that could have been prevented if you had only communicated, prepared a plan, and established a decision-making process.