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One of the Clearest Warning Signs of Dementia

            More often than not, the first call we receive about a prospective client who is facing long term care concerns comes from a child or other family member, rather than the senior client.  And so often the caller expresses surprise at recently discovering that Mom or Dad is slipping.  It is how that discovery is made that shows there are telltale signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s that families should look for.  And new research backs up my anecdotal evidence.

             Experts on Alzheimer’s Disease note that one of the first signs of dementia is confusion surrounding money and credit.  This confusion can result in not paying bills on time.  It may also lead to being the victim of a senior scam.  Sometimes it is a “friend”  helping the senior write checks to the “friend” or multiple checks to various charities to which the senior never previously expressed any interest.

            Issues surrounding money and finances are complicated.  Many families never talk about money.  It’s a taboo subject.  Add to that the fact that competency is not a bright line determination.  As I often explain, whether I have a broken leg or not can be determined with certainty.  An x-ray will usually settle the issue.  The brain is a more tricky issue.  Just because you have a diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean you are incompetent.  It is a gradual decline with ups and downs. But over time it is a downward decline.  That’s what makes it so difficult to know when someone can no longer handle their own affairs.

             Waiting too long, however, has some very real dangers.  Take the case of Dr. Max Gomez.  His case was highlighted in a recent New York Times article.  You may know of his son, Dr. Max Gomez, for many years the medical correspondent for CBS News. Max, the son, lives in New York. His dad was living alone in Miami and over time, began experiencing problems dealing with his finances.  By the time his son learned of the problems his dad had lost everything, including his condominium to foreclosure.

            Unfortunately, Dr. Gomez’ case is all too common.  The lesson to be learned is to have conversations about finances with your senior loved one early on.  If possible, establish a system by which you’ll get notice if Mom or Dad skip paying bills.  Taking a look at the checkbook for money going in and out is also a good idea.  It may be an uncomfortable subject but the pain of losing everything is far greater.  And if you’d like to read more about Dr. Gomez go to