Decisional Capacity and Short Term Memory Loss

simple choiceI’m working with two older adults who have seemingly lost their short term memory and are unable to manage their calendars. They haven’t been diagnosed with anything more than mild cognitive impairment but since their kids aren’t local, I have been hired to help pay bills and manage the cash flow. What I keenly recognize is that they have the ability to make reasonable choices that align with former saving and spending philosophies, but they have just lost the ability to do simple tasks like manage or recall who they have paid and balance the checkbook.

As an adult child, knowing my parents could not manage simple tasks had me and my siblings petrified that they would become victims of fraud and scams. We intervened at different times on their behalf to turn back on the water, cancel a second predatory contract for some home repairs, and even close down extra accounts they just weren’t using any longer. However, now that I’m stepping in as a Daily Money Manager to help older adults manage their bill payments, cash flow, and general finances, I also recognize how valuable keeping them involved in the process is to their self-esteem.

While it’s much faster to just take something away and do it yourself, going through the mail, prioritizing and making bill payments together, allows the individual to retain the sense of independence that is lost when the checkbook gets “taken away.” By the time my mom turned over the checkbook to me, paying bills just caused her panic since she had lost her ability to understand the value of money and didn’t recognize that they could afford for the escalating costs of her care.

I hope if you are in the early stages of cognitive issues with a loved one that you can recognize that being able to make a decision and be involved is vital to the sense of meaning and purpose to the person you are helping. Keep it simple, and keep them involved as long as you can. Appreciated.