Capacity to understand finances?

We are all familiar with disagreeing with people but recognizing that they have the right to make their own decisions. The ability of older people to understand their own finances has Macro significance because of the huge numbers involved.…

**Sizing Up the Decisions of Older Adults**

**A new training tool helps to assess whether some seniors can make informed choices about their own care and well-being.**
**By Paula Span, The New York Times, May 9, 2022**

**Trouble handling finances often serves as an early warning of incapacity, said Dr. Daniel Marson, a neuropsychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who has studied the subject for 25 years.**

**“Financial capacity is probably the first higher-order functional ability affected by neurodegenerative disorders and by normal aging,” he said. Using money proficiently requires complex thought, from “something basic like using an A.T.M. to things that are more complicated, like ‘How should I handle this call from a telemarketer?’” The consequences of diminishing financial capacity — unsafe living conditions, impoverishment, homelessness, institutionalization — can be devastating...**

**The Interview for Decisional Abilities (IDA) interview attempts to answer three fundamental questions about a particular problem or risk: “Do you recognize that this happens? Do you think that this could be happening to you? Can you come up with a plan to address it, reasoning through and weighing the upsides and downsides?”** [end quote]

IDA isn’t a simple test. It’s a 10-hour course that teaches an interview technique meant to determine whether a person understands their situation.…

The basis of the IDA is, “People have the right to make bad decisions. But the decision makers must be able to understand the risks they face and the potential consequences.”

Along with applying IDA to cases of financial neglect or abuse, the California Adult Protective Services (A.P.S.) workers are using it to assess a range of issues including self-neglect, health and safety questions, refusal of physical care or medical treatment, and physical or psychological or sexual abuse. Trust and estate lawyers and financial firms are already asking about it.

Early dementia may affect a person’s executive functions (organizing and planning) before memory is damaged. A person may seem to be handling daily life but lose the capacity to understand their finances and the results of financial acts.

When is the line crossed between, “I disagree with what you are doing” and “You are mentally incompetent and need to be in conservatorship”?



When Dad died too early from leukemia, Mom was still 98% capable at age 75, but chose to resign from financial decisionmaking. Brother and I took over paying her bills, inspecting car and condo for work needing doing, etc., and then set her up with a debit card we topped up monthly to $2000 so she could get cash at ATMs as needed and eat out and buy gifts but not get significantly scammed or robbed.

After a year, with marbles still intact, Mom said it was one of the best decisions she had ever made beyond saying “yes” to Dad’s proposal and choosing to have children. She said it let her truly “retire”.

I am planning on doing the same.

david fb