As the articles below illustrate, our capacity to handle money and attend to our affairs can vary.  Some older people never really run into difficulties, others seem ripe for exploitation and abuse.
Capacity, in the eyes of the law, the medical community and the field of social work is also defined differently by professionals in those fields. So trying to determine whether an adult “wanted or meant” to do one thing or another is sometimes a tricky question.  Did they want to give money away, even though it might hurt later if they lack funds for long term care?  Did they understand that adding a child to a deed could be divestment in the eyes of Medicaid, or were they pressured into this act by a child without having enough pertinent information from an unbiased attorney who understands elder law?
The law can help in many ways, via preventive arrangements and schemes, or by chasing down a bad apple after the fact.  But even so, frustration continues since not every solution fits every individual, and because we often think too late about our slipping capacity.  Further, we have long thought, and properly so, that adults are entitled to make their own decisions — even stupid ones — so long as they have a bit of reasoning power left, and have applied it to the choice or decision at hand.
This article from the Detroit Free Press helps illuminate some issues, as well as a tool being developed to better assess the types  of capacity —  or one might say, the areas in which our capacity is stronger or weaker. Perhaps we are great at knowing family, figuring out a course of health care, but we can no longer really figure out our own budget and get bills paid on time.  A tool like this might help provide some structure or guidance as we evaluate the financial capacity of a person.
And the additional material from a recent AARP publication also outlines some current thinking on these issues as well as possible financial and management services one could use in an effort to keep our ship afloat.
The Free Press article is here:
And the AARP article is here:
In our firm, we help people with these issues.  Sometimes by preventive actions, sometimes by chasing down the bad apple and trying to secure restitution.
As an author of a chapter on senior exploitation and abuse and the possible civil remedies one might try, I’ve had the opportunity to use such thinking to help several vulnerable adults.*
We are also trying, when practical, to see if mediation is helpful at times–mediation would seldom help in outright theft or scam, but what about family dynamics–where one child getting far more from mom or dad rather than others, and such generosity is now hurting the senior?  Mediation might help there.

If you need help or are helping a loved one, call us.  Since some options are time sensitive, calling sooner rather than later makes good sense.  Our telephone is 517 853-8015, and our office is conveniently located in Grand Ledge and was designed with accessibility in mind.