Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we are aging in a digitalized world. Technology makes our lives simpler, more organized, and can allow us to do many things we may not have thought possible a decade ago. It’s great to be able to access information at our fingertips—but technology can’t do everything. It can’t tell us when our parents, siblings, or even friends may be reaching an age where additional assistance may be a necessary step to ensuring they—and their assets—are safe. Professional fiduciaries are highly-qualified individuals that can do just this—but as Donna Verna, a private professional fiduciary and member of PFAC, says, it’s incredibly important to make sure the person you hire is trustworthy, certified, and the right match.
But what are the warning signs Mom or Dad needs help? When should we ask for help? There is no app for deciding whether Mom can still sort out her medications or if Dad remembers how to call a Lyft. In her practice located in Los Altos, Donna has nearly two decades of experience working with families experiencing the same challenges we all face with aging parents—and she highlighted a few warning signs to pay attention to when deciding if the time is right to hire a professional fiduciary.
Donna says that a telltale sign of needing help is noticing uncashed checks on the table when you visit your parents—or if they are failing to file income taxes. It may be easy to set up auto-pay for your parents—you may even do this remotely on their behalf with your phone. But who is watching the money that comes in and out of the bank accounts? It’s important to make sure all accounts are monitored and secured in case of scammers or fraud.
Have you checked the expiration dates on medication bottles lately? Sometimes our aging loved ones may no longer pay attention to expiration dates on medications—or may be forgetful about the timing or dosage of their daily medications. If they have reminder alarms on their phones—great! But it is crucial to ensure the doses and dates are in top shape.
If mom is hanging out with a strange young man who convinces her to buy him things, red flags may start appearing. If relationships suddenly change or if you feel something is wrong, take notice. It’s important to pay attention to new “friends” that come around and begin making big decisions on behalf of your family—they may not have their best interest in mind.
Are your loved ones slipping, falling, or otherwise having more “clumsy” injuries than they used to? It may be time to consider talking to them about hiring someone such as a professional fiduciary to help them find a caregiver—or to make plans to make their home safer.
Internet scammers are becoming clever—and sometimes even the best of us can’t tell a legitimate email from a scam artist attempting to steal our personal information. But these types of criminals target elderly people by pretending to be the IRS or a bill collector. And once their money is sent, it is extremely difficult (or impossible) to get it back. By hiring someone to keep an eye out for suspicious scenarios such as these, you and your loved ones can be at ease.
If your parents are forgetting important dates, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or calendar appointments, maybe it’s time to start thinking about setting up a shared family calendar. Forgetting appointments can be detrimental to their safety—and perhaps it’s time to take action to ensure someone (such as a caregiver) is available to keep them on track.
When trying to decide if your parents (or friends) are going through any of these worrisome behaviors, it’s easy to ignore the warning signs and be in denial. Donna says one of the challenges in her job is helping families cope with what is the case instead of what they wish was the case. She has seen families torn apart from fighting over estates and wills—but she says it does not have to be this way. And living in the heart of a digital landscape, Donna says many kids think it’s easy to set up a webcam to monitor mom’s house, and to summon Lyft rides for them from a distance. Technology is great, Donna says, but it cannot replace the human touch or connection we have with our loved ones.
So, what can you do? The first step is to contact a professional fiduciary—and make sure they are qualified. There are just over a dozen states in the U.S. that have thorough licensing requirements for working as a professional fiduciary—and California is one of them. As a member of the Professional Fiduciary Association of California, Donna says it’s crucial to find someone that you trust with your life. If you don’t like what they are saying—find someone whom you do, and who has your best interest at heart. This will help you and your loved ones rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.