How to Fight a Company Preying on your Loved One(s)

A colleague of mine called to ask for some help. She and her two sisters are stepping in to help their parents and shared the never-ending battle they are having with a company called PowerHome Solar that recently rebranded to Pink Solar. See the link to recent news story about this icky business … apparently they are notorious for their misleading tactics and the law suits are mounting.

This is just one family’s story about the struggle to fend off a predatory business. However, as daily money managers at MemoryBanc, we run into these situations often with our clients. Sometimes that phone creates easy access to individuals who are too trusting. We work with many individuals who want to continue answering their phones and will engage with the callers. How do your balance free will, choice, purpose, meaning AND safety?

The hard reality is that real businesses can prey on older adults, it is not just fraudsters and scammers.

Couple in Ohio

My colleagues’ parents live in their home of several decades in a small town in Ohio. Apparently, dad signed up for more information online after reading about how solar energy could decrease their electric bills. The company sent out a salesperson who was at the house for three hours which resulted in them signing a contract for solar polar grid installation for $58,000. Thankfully, they told one of the daughters about it and they were able to cancel the contract within the three-day window. They specifically requested that the company not contact the parents again.

A month later, they sent another person to the parents’ house and they sat with them for four hours. This “nice young kid” sold them the same contract again – $58K. Thankfully one of the daughters called during the meeting and they were able to cancel the second contract the next day.

This time they asked to speak to a manager and told them to stop. The very next day the manager called the parents and asked to set up a third appointment.

There is no math anyone can perform that would make a $58,000 solar panel installation pay itself back in her parent’s lifetime. However, something is compelling about this and mom and dad keep signing the contract.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? These are simple steps to take to support a loved one. In this situation, the advanced options might be the only way to help fend off predatory businesses.

The basics:

  • Set up alerts on spending for the bank account. I get alerts for my own bank account and credit cards. I have been able to immediately report a fraudulent charge as well as been alerted on recurring charges for services. I do admit that it was eye-opening to know how a meal service program I signed up for at one cost quickly escalated and no longer felt like a good use of grocery funds once the incentives ended.
  • Get added to the bank account as power of attorney if they agree. This is different than being added as a joint account holder on the account. This way you will have online access and will be able to check-in and see income and debits.
  • Minimize the amount of money in the bank account and fund it as needed. This can be a balancing act but if you are worried about fraud or misuse of funds, don’t keep a lot of money in the primary bank account.

Advanced options:

Some of these are unpopular choices but work. We have done these when there has been a large or repeated scams/predatory service provider(s).

  • Change the phone number. You can also block the number, but often a business will have so many variations the only way to stop the calls is to change their phone number to an unlisted number.
  • Have a Trust and put all of the assets in a Trust. You can have a trust that requires more than one signature and can set up barriers to contracting. I am not a lawyer, so I recommend you contact one to discuss this option.
  • Petition for Guardianship. This is the option of last resort because it is costly and harsh. You are basically stripping the individual of the ability to sign contracts and manage their finances. Contact a lawyer about this option as well.

Thanks to my colleague for allowing me to share the challenges her family is facing. I hope you find some of the tips and insights are helpful for you and your family. Vigilant.

Solar Panel Scams: How to Avoid Them and the Biggest Red Flags CNET 5/22/2022

Do you want your parent to move in?


The isolation experienced during COVID has made most of us reconsider how we want to care, and be cared for when we need it. Many of us had to watch as loved ones declined during the long isolation. I noticed it the most for clients that I worked with who were in retirement and assisted-living communities. It was a tough road and we are still navigating how to balance safety and engagement.

My mom and I after her community had a tie-dye party. I liked hers much better!

Had I known how my parent’s care journey would end, I would have made some different choices. I see families facing these choices every week, and it’s never an easy or simple choice to make. Sometimes you are having to make a choice for someone who is unable to understand why their living situation needs to change.

Sometimes the person caring for the individual needs more support, and sometimes the person receiving the care might not like the arrangement. I am sharing this story that quotes a local professional that I met years ago on a panel discussion. I was immediately drawn to her practical advice and wisdom, and also witnessed her support when we both worked for the same client.

I believe the more you know, the better you can feel about the decisions and choices you may need to make with or for someone else … as well as consider what you might want when you are the one needing a little more help. When mom or dad wants move in with you: How to decide and what to say if the answer is no.

The earlier you can have these discussions, the better for everyone. Hoped.

Pausing to Understand Your Loved One

Years ago when I was the adult child watching my parent’s cognitive abilities dim, I ended up reading some things Kate Swaffer posted. She was diagnosed with dementia before her 50th birthday and has been a thoughtful, passionate educator for the years I have been watching her in action. She recently posted Today, I hate Dementia.

In caring for my parents, I read her words to help me better understand what my parent’s might be experiencing. What I thought was a mean rebuke of something I was doing to be helpful, was a personal affront I had initiated without realizing my impact. Dementia is cruel. It steals things from all of us.

I hope you will read her post and check out her book and other posts that may offer you a peak into the lives of those we are living with that might not be able to tell us what and how they feel. Appreciated.

My Fight Against Charity Fraud

Early in my caregiver journey with my parents, I recognized that my mother was writing checks to charities that they had never previously supported. I didn’t realize how prevalent it was for older adults to change giving habits until I started helping another older adult and saw her giving in ways that didn’t line up with her prior habits.

I knew it made my mom feel good to write those checks. However, what I didn’t know at the time was that that first donation turned my mom into a charity magnet and it resulted in a magnitude of mail NO ONE wants to manage.

Sadly, many good charities have turned over the solicitation to for-profit companies that get and sell your name. It turns out that is why giving to one charity can often create a cascade of new mail solicitations.

My experience and telling my story resulted in me being interviewed on The Perfect ScamSM a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers with the knowledge to recognize and avoid scams.

You can reach a summary of the podcast here as well as follow the link to hear more about our experience. It is a common experience. You show up at your loved ones’ home and see the piles of mail. In this podcast you will learn why this happens and how to fight back. Told.

Assume Appreciation

For anyone who has stepped up to help a loved one, you know how hard it can be.

Your loved one is fighting for independence, purpose, and typically has no recognition of the help they need. It took me a year to really figure out how to better navigate the support my parents needed but didn’t recognize.

I learned that I had to be the one to adapt. For someone with a cognitive issue that they most likely don’t fully recognize, they are going to be unable to adapt.

Years ago when I was still working in Corporate America, we had a consultant come in to help the company function better. One of the things we learned was to always give your team mates the assumption they are working to help you. As you can imagine, we had some internal struggles and this idea did help us start to have dialogue around where we were trying to go and how to get there now assuming we were all going to the same place. It was a game-changer, at least for me, and I still carry on this philosophy in all I do.

One of the things I did learn on my caregiving journey was to sit with my parents, and mostly my Mom, and do things in tandem. While early on the first thought was to take away the checkbook, I changed to a system where I would come and sit with my Mom to help her with the bills. Eventually, she just handed over the checkbook and asked me to take care of the bills for her.

That first year was REALLY difficult and I don’t think I ever cried so much in my life. It was frustrating, heartbreaking, and thankless.

After I changed to approach my role differently, things went a lot smoother.

YES. The time I needed to spend with my parents to help them DOUBLED. It takes way less time to do things solo, but the reality was that my parents wanted to participate.

One day, I walked into my parents apartment, and found the note I have included in this post. “Dear Kay, So thoughtful and loving for you to take us on — as if you don’t already have enough to do.” My Mom was not a gushy lady. Reading this still brings tears of joy and grief to my eyes.

There were some things I could have done differently but I did the best I could. I operated on the assumption that it was an honor and duty to help my parents. In the end, I was surprised to find that my Mom recognized the love behind my support for them.

Even if they are unable to tell you, assume there is appreciation for the support you are offering.

I meet many older adults today who hire me and my agency to help them because they don’t have family to help. The stories I hear are often heart-breaking and they feel very alone.

I wanted to remind you that the people you are helping are lucky to have you. What you do might not always be the perfect option, but it’s okay because you are working on finding the best path forward together. Appreciated.

Navigating the Choice to Move a Parent in with You

I believe had I known how my parent’s care journey would end, I would have made some different choices. We all know hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to second guess decisions made, especially when you are making a decision for a loved one that is unable that choice for themselves.

I am sharing this story that quotes a local professional that I met years ago on a panel discussion. I was immediately drawn to her practical advice and wisdom, and also witnessed her support when we both worked for the same client.

I believe the more you know, the better you can feel about the decisions and choices you may need to make with or for someone else … as well as consider what you might want when you are the one needing a little more help.

When mom or dad wants move in with you: How to decide and what to say if the answer is no

I hope you find the article useful. Recommended.

You Do Not Have to Navigate Alone

When a loved one needs your help, it’s easy to say “Yes” but then find yourself overwhelmed with choices or decisions you don’t know how to navigate.

I lived this journey and recognize how I could have made it easier for myself, and my parents if I had incorporated an Aging Life Care Professional earlier.

I seem families struggle with their situation, and they just don’t know what options there are to help. Unfortunately, your primary care doctor, nor any of the specialized medical professionals you visit, don’t have the time, or the practical knowledge to know how to navigate living choices and care options once a health condition is making life more difficult.

I used Aging Life Care Professionals to help me narrow down the choices for a memory care community for my Mom. She was living in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, but the care options for her didn’t fit her memory care needs. In our area we had over 30 memory care communities. The Aging Life Care Professionals I hired understood that my Mom loved to walk. They gave me and my siblings 3 places to visit so we could make the final choice and also gave us the pros and cons for each. We were very happy with the choice and the advice on how best to help make the move for my Mom. We paid them for a few hours of their time, which helped me save dozens of hours researching options and eliminated hours worrying about making the right choice.

I work with many families who are floundering to help find the right care and understand the care options in their area. I will always recommend they contact a local Aging Life Care Professional to help navigate these early choices. They can help understand:

  • The type of care that would be most useful
  • The terms and conditions in a care agreement with a home care agency
  • The amount of time you might consider having care support in the home
  • How to adapt your home to make it easier for them to stay there
  • When you need to consider a care community over caring for a loved one at home
  • Who are the best doctors to help address the health issues being faced
  • How to navigate what you believe to be your loved ones wishes with their health condition

Those are just the basics and I encourage you to consider contacting a professional in your area and letting them help you understand how they might be able to help you.

What I do know is that so often the caregiver fails because they are overwhelmed. I hope you will take the time to contact a local professional to see how they might be able to help you and your loved ones. Encouraged.

Getting Your Ducks in A Row … and the continued Vigilance Required to Be Prepared

I recently lost a client who chose to control his own destiny. None of us knew he has been planning this end, but now his call to me to talk through the Estate Plans makes sense.

I reminded him that three years ago we had gone to the bank to provide them with his Trust and he made his checking account POD (payable upon death) to his Trust. The bulk of his wealth … his home and investment accounts … were already in the Trust. ** He chose to make the Trust the beneficiary after death, even though the lawyer had recommended titling the account to the Trust.

Last week I returned to his bank to provide them with the death certificate and transition his account into his Trust so we could pay his bills. The beauty of the Trust allows the Trustee (or in this case Successor Trustee) to carry on and avoid probate and additional taxes. However, the bank CAN’T FIND the Trust document or the POD instructions on his account! It is a big bank and they are going through a merger. Even the best-made plans can fail.

Just having the legal Trust document doesn’t mean your assets are held in Trust. You MUST take an extra step to ensure your home, investment account, financial assets are titled to/listed as the account holder.

PLEASE SEEK and follow THE ADVICE OF YOUR ESTATE LAWYER.

I am not a lawyer, but on a weekly basis run into all the ways great Estate Plans fail. Usually, it is because the people that paid to create the plans didn’t follow the instructions on how to implement those plans. Your work didn’t end the day you left the lawyer’s office after signing the papers … it really just began. Call your lawyer to find out if you are prepared.

Practically, what can you do to ensure you are prepared for when you need help? First, assume that you will need help before you die. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of all adults over the age of 65 will need 3 years of help to manage the activities of daily living. Don’t wait until you need help. It can take weeks and even months to work with financial institutions.

  • Get Estate Plans in place by working with an Elder Law Attorney. This includes a variety of legal documents they will discuss with you.
  • Follow the instructions you are given. For those people that have a Trust, you should receive a document that recommends which accounts you title to the Trust (instead of the account being in your name “Kay Bransford” it would be “The Kay Bransford Trust” and I would be listed as the Trustee). They will also provide information on which beneficiary updates need to be made for all of your asset accounts.
  • Monitor your mail to make sure the accounts are titled properly. Several years ago, I got a piece of mail from an investment account that was titled to “Kay Bransford.” Three years prior I had provided them with the Trust and for years, the mail was arriving titled to “The Kay Bransford Trust.” When I called to find out what was going on I was told they went through a computer update and somehow, it resulted in my account retitling. I was able to get it immediately addressed.

I hope these steps can help you understand the importance of truly implementing your Trust. Contact your lawyer when you have questions.

If you need some help monitoring and managing your accounts or your bill pay, you can contact a Daily Money Manager. They fill the void of practical actions needed when it comes to making sure you lead the rest of the life you envisioned. Summarized.

How can I get Mom to Move?

I have lived this journey. You know Mom/Dad are not safe in their home, but they have no interest in making any changes to their living arrangements.

First, recognize that your loved one may not recognize that they are not managing very well. Their eyesight might not allow them to see the dirty counters; a change in their cognition might make a messy room not seem like a problem; an inability to manage more than one step at a time may make picking up and sorting piles of mail seem less important.

A friend visited her mom and they were working on clearing out the closet. They had pulled everything out and sorted it and the day got too long for them to finish, so they left the project and went to dinner. They were all exhausted and planned on finishing the work in the morning. When my friend returned in the morning, she found her mother put everything back in the closet and was angry that her daughter had “rummaged through her stuff!”

It’s hard. You are worried for their safety and when someone is totally lacking short-term memory and having difficulty processing a simple project, it means they really should not be living on their own. Mom refuses to clean out the clutter and says she is not interested in moving.

My Advice? Tell your Mom you are worried and you want her to move (community, your home, siblings home, fill-in-the-blank). Have the conversation. Understand her feelings, fears, wishes. Don’t dictate, yell, admonish, but just have a conversation. After you have had the conversation, determine if you can come back on another day and implement what you discussed but approach it knowing what your Mom is worried about or afraid of.

When someone doesn’t have short-term memory you will just relive the same conversation. Remember that emotions are what usually get remembered, not the content of the conversation.

After struggling through a move from Independent Living to Assisted Living for my parents, my siblings and I had the conversation with our parents. We were afraid … as are many adult children … that the Assisted Living apartment was too small for them. However, we knew we had to make this happen or their community was going to evict them. One day, we took them out to lunch and brought them back to their new apartment. We spent time helping them decorate and patiently answered questions.

Within days, they had adapted and WERE HAPPIER. They loved being able to watch people come in and depart from the entrance. They had totally forgotten about their prior apartment. At this point, both of my parents were in a moderate stage of their dementia. The move can cause a step down in responses and thinking. They actually enjoyed having a smaller place to manage and enjoyed their new home. We were all surprised.

If there is a cognitive issue, you may never be able to talk them into the change. If they are truly unsafe and a change needs to be made, you might have to make it happen if there is no way to layer in safeguards where they are.

If you don’t make the change, you end up waiting for the crisis and then have fewer options and maybe now another health issue to manage. There is no right answer … just the right answer for you and your loved ones. Believed.

A Conversation with Professionals Who Can Help with the Day to Day Finances and Protect Against Fraudsters and Scams

While I was caring for my parents, I realized how difficult it was to be a caregiver and get a handle on and manage all of the day-to-day finances. It led me to write my best-selling book MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life and changed my career path. For nearly a decade I have been helping families navigate the financial issues that surround caregiving and have protected my clients against a variety of scams while helping them maintain their dignity.

If you have questions about how we can help you or a loved one, join us for this conversation on June 10th at noon. This is hosted by ProAging which is a network of professionals serving older adults, but will provide some valuable insight into how Daily Money Managers help individuals, and their families.

Meet the Daily Money Managers
Join us for the first in our monthly series of discussions with members of the American Association of Daily Money Managers AADMM. A Daily Money Manager (DMM) is a financial professional who provides personal financial services to individuals and families, and who manages personal daily money matters such as bills, budgets, and record keeping and much more.

This month our panel features:
Amanda DesBarres of Help Unlimited
Kay Bransford of MemoryBanc

Time Jun 10, 2021 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Honored.

My Mom repeats herself. Is that a symptom of dementia?

stylish women leaning on pillars on station
Photo by Daria Sannikova on Pexels.com

We have all done this at some point in our lives — and we either realize it mid-sentence or are told by our conversation partner. If this is a common occurrence and the person repeating themselves doesn’t recall having the conversation before, then it is time to bring it up with the primary care doctor. 

Any change in behavior by a loved one should start with a visit to their doctor. There are a variety of things that could cause changes (medication, lack of sleep,  a urinary tract infection) and not necessarily dementia. However, I do advise you start with the primary care doctor and discuss the changes. The more specific you can be the better so consider starting a journal to help you recall how often this is happening as well as help define exactly what is occurring.  My mom dismissed my concerns when I went to the doctor with her, and she focused on my Dad’s forgetfulness. I didn’t have specific details and facts to frame my concerns. 

Time and time again I know of many families that recognize something is off, but it is not something a primary care doctor can easily identify. Often, dementia won’t be diagnosed until later in the disease progression and early treatment could help slow the advance of the disease. So be persistent. Ask for a referral for a neuropsychological examination. Even after my Dad was diagnosed, he would score 28 on the mini-mental exam out of 30 — push for more nuanced testing.  

Looking back, I now recognize so many issues and signs that alerted us to mom’s dementia, but it was a long difficult road to even get to a diagnosis for a variety of reasons. The biggest one being my mom and dad fought to keep their independence fiercely. I arrived when I was given the opportunity to help them. I just hope that I won’t repeat history if I end up with the same condition. Prayed.