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One of the issues families consider as loved ones age is whether an elder is susceptible to financial elder abuse. When trying to protect mom or dad (or another elderly loved one), sometimes famlies overstep. Paternalism is not appropriate when an elder is capable of making his or her own decisions; if the elder has no cognitive deficit, then he or she can make his or her own decisions regardless of whether family members agree with those decisions. Even when an elder needs help, he or she should be allowed to retain the maximum amount of control and dignity over his or her own affairs. With that in mind, let’s talk about a half-way solution that protects an elder from financial abuse while preserving dignity.

There is nothing wrong with moving a significant amount of an elder’s cash reserves into a trust account or a protected account to protect it from scammers and other financial abusers. However, there is also nothing wrong with setting up a seperate account and funding it with an amount sufficient to allow an elder to tithe, make charitable contributions to established charities, and have some walking around money. We call this the Dignity Account. Even when an elder begins having cognitive issues, allowing him or her to retain as much dignity as possible is critical for emotional and psychological well-being. The Dignity Account can be nominally funded and refilled as necessary. That way if a scammer takes advantage of the elder, the damage is minimal.

Remember, it’s not necessary to protect every dime. An elder’s peace of mind is more important than shutting down all potential risk. Stuff is just stuff, but the contentment on an elder’s face who feels like he or she can make gifts to his or her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, or tithe to his or her church, is priceless.

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