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How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 01:12 PM   #1
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How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Some of you who've read my posts over the last few years know that my Dad has taught me most of what I know about investing and finance. He's always been very sharp about science, engineering, finance, etc., and good, if tedious, about explaining things like the yield curve to me.

He's now 79.5 and still managing a couple trust funds, his company's 401(k) plan, etc., and recently learned how to trade stocks on the internet.

Point of post: He's mentioned several times that he wants to give these things up when he is no longer mentally able to handle them, but is afraid he won't know when that has happened, and wants me to tell him. His fears are based on watching his own mother become unable to balance her checkbook (in her late 90's). She insisted she was doing just fine. He's afraid he will do the same, with much higher stakes.

I think Dad's still doing fine generally, but today there was a conversation that scared me a little - he said he didn't know the difference between a regular IRA and a Roth. Claimed it was because he has never had a Roth... But this seems like a simple thing that I'm fairly sure he would have been clear on a few years ago.

Any tips on how I might know that it's time to urge him to turn over the reins?



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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 01:41 PM   #2
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Sheryl, here is a link to the mental status examination

a simple tool you can use to reassure yourself or increase your worry. Would your Dad be willing to do this even as a "game"? If the results were concerning, will he be willing to see a professional for a formal assessment?
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 01:45 PM   #3
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meadbh
Sheryl, here is a link to the mental status examination

a simple tool you can use to reassure yourself or increase your worry. Would your Dad be willing to do this even as a "game"? If the results were concerning, will he be willing to see a professional for a formal assessment?
Hmm... might be a little awkward administering a mental status screening exam to good old Dad, though his physician might.

You will probably have to wait until he either tells you it's time, or until clear evidence of misjudgments and errors occur. A compromise might be to tell him that he is doing just fine, but just in case you can double check things for him once in a while just to be safe.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 03:52 PM   #4
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

How about this: "Dad, could I give you a hand with all that paperwork? You could look over my shoulder as I do it so that I get it right."

When the time comes to do more than paper work the transition will be smooth and you can periodically meet with him for a report of his finances.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 04:03 PM   #5
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meadbh
Sheryl, here is a link to the mental status examination
He would pass that one with flying colors. He's actually tried to seek out some sort of testing to see if his faculties are declining - but has found he's way above what the tests are testing... So he's probably worried over nothing.

Quote:
you can periodically meet with him for a report of his finances
Problem is we only see each other once a year or so.

I guess he's probably ok for now. I just worry about how I will know, when it seems to be such a gradual change.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 04:14 PM   #6
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
I think Dad's still doing fine generally, but today there was a conversation that scared me a little - he said he didn't know the difference between a regular IRA and a Roth. Claimed it was because he has never had a Roth... But this seems like a simple thing that I'm fairly sure he would have been clear on a few years ago.
Heck, there are dozens of people like that keeping Ed Slott employed for life. I can barely tell the difference among a 403(b), a 457, and a .357.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
I guess he's probably ok for now. I just worry about how I will know, when it seems to be such a gradual change.
In my grandfather's case, the first two symptoms were:
1. Mail piling up. He knew how to get it from the mailbox and bring it into the house, he just didn't know what to do with it after that and would put it on a counter, on a table, in a drawer, on a piece of furniture, on the floor, etc. After three-plus years it made a pretty big mess of the two-bedroom apartment.
2. Repeating stories. This might initially start out at once per day or a couple times a week but later the repetition comes down to once every hour or so.

A shipmate of ours was transferring from Florida to Hawaii and stopped at his Oklahoma family home to spend a few days with his aging mother. After a couple days he noticed that she wasn't quite on but he put it down to the excitement of him bringing her the grandkids. On the last day of his trip, his brothers (who still lived near their mother) pulled him aside and asked him if he'd noticed anything. That was their cue to test for early stage Alzheimer's. They'd been wondering but it had been so gradual for those who saw her daily that it took her Navy son (visiting once every couple years) to notice the change.

The "good" news is that my grandfather's behavior wasn't considered a problem until he was 3-4 years into dementia. If this happens to your father then you'll become aware of the problem before it truly becomes a problem. All the locals knew my grandfather and sort of watched out for him without interfering. The local utility companies kept him on the books (at 18% APY) but didn't threaten him or turn his accounts over to collection agencies. Matters didn't really come to a head until he stopped paying his rent.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 04:26 PM   #7
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
He's actually tried to seek out some sort of testing to see if his faculties are declining - but has found he's way above what the tests are testing... So he's probably worried over nothing.
Problem is we only see each other once a year or so.

I guess he's probably ok for now. I just worry about how I will know, when it seems to be such a gradual change.
i believe you already answered your own question. mom stayed very much involved in monitoring her own decline over the years. early on we utilitized private psychiatrists, neurologists and the like including a private testing center. later our local university started a memory center and so we also went there.

living like this we were able to add whatever structure she needed, only as she needed it and so we were able to help her maintain a pretty normal life very far into dementia.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 05:30 PM   #8
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
2. Repeating stories. This might initially start out at once per day or a couple times a week but later the repetition comes down to once every hour or so.
Uh oh. I think a lot of people on this board are in trouble.

How about starting the transition now? Forget about measuring competence, get looped in, get POA, start sharing the load. He'll hand over the reigns once he feels ready, and he'll probably err on the side of safety.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 05:41 PM   #9
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Perhaps its time to start transferring some responsibilities now like the trust funds and 401k...take on a local apprentice or start a transition plan with a new trustee. And put his own investments into something that 'takes care of itself'.

Rather than waiting and measuring, just make a plan and start taking action now. At a minimum, he'll hold all his faculties all the way through and have fewer hassles and worries during that time.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 05:49 PM   #10
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Wab and I are of like minds with your Dad.

In my experience what works best at the beginning is offering to help without taking over. It is a lot easier to learn his ropes while he still has good cognition. In that way you will know what needs to be done in the near term, and as time progresses you can go from bookkeeper to manager as his abilities dictate. My Mother just turned 90 and has been in a nursing home for years. Until a few months ago she expected a regular report on the state of her finances and nursing home charges - her many years operating a business were evident. I usually reviewed any significant investments I wished to make with her, out of respect, but didn't mention if any of her investments tanked. [She had PGE -> Enron which blew up just after she turned over her investments to me.]
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 06:33 PM   #11
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

It is one thing not to pass a competency test, it is another to be sufficiently in the game to be managing other people's money.

Interestingly, I know someone who manages several trusts and he had the same worry. He made the decision that it is simply impossible for him and others to tell is he is still good enough to be doing the work. So he decided that when he turned 80 he would hand the reigns over to a successor (a 66 year old that I also know). He has in fact done so. His successor keeps him in the loop and frequently discusses issues with him.

Maybe a discussion with your dad about how it is next to impossible to know whether he is doing the job that he should be doing, given the distance involved and the fact that you cannot be looking over his shoulder day in a day out. Maybe suggest that he pick a date to hand over the job to someone else.

When he is responsible for other people's money, he should stop when he is doing a great job, not when he begins to slip.

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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-20-2007, 08:30 PM   #12
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Watch for spelling mistakes, such as "loosing" versus "losing."

Please forgive me, Sheryl, I couldn't resist.

But seriously, if he starts to lose it, the early stages will be so hard to be sure about. The other day, I was having trouble getting things to come out right when downloading some Quicken data, and I really felt like I was losing it -- maybe I am. My 91 year-old-mom will seem perfectly OK, and then say something completely off the wall ("This is such a nice apartment" when she's in the hospital).

So, I'd say you just have to play it by ear. The "Roth thing" could mean nothing. For some reason, it took me a while to understand the benefits of a Roth IRA. I think you'll be fine -- just hang lose!
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-21-2007, 09:17 AM   #13
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

v. loosed, loos·ing, loos·es
v.tr.
1. To let loose; release: loosed the dogs.
2. To make loose; undo: loosed his belt.
3. To cast loose; detach: hikers loosing their packs at camp.
4. To let fly; discharge: loosed an arrow.
5. To release pressure or obligation from; absolve: loosed her from the responsibility.
6. To make less strict; relax: a leader's strong authority that was loosed by easy times.

Seems okay to me...
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-21-2007, 03:28 PM   #14
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
It is one thing not to pass a competency test, it is another to be sufficiently in the game to be managing other people's money.

Maybe a discussion with your dad about how it is next to impossible to know whether he is doing the job that he should be doing, given the distance involved and the fact that you cannot be looking over his shoulder day in a day out. Maybe suggest that he pick a date to hand over the job to someone else.
Yup - he is in fact "testing" the bank's trust department to see if their investment suggestions are up to his standards. He feels they are doing ok, so he's gradually turning over the 401k to them.

I think suggesting a turnover date for the family trusts, like perhaps my next visit, would be a good idea. Until now, I've just brushed off his comments about becoming less competent.

Thanks Al and CFB. 8) Loose/lose has always been a tough one for me, maybe I'm the one loosing it.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-22-2007, 02:29 PM   #15
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-22-2007, 10:53 PM   #16
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

The problem we had with my late mother in law is that she fluctuated. At some points, she could teach a nursing class without any difficulty, at others, she didn't even know what state she was in. The worse was when she was driving, she would get this blank look and we would try to engage her. Fortunately, when she came to live with us, she was scared to drive and we didn't have to argue with her.
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-22-2007, 11:13 PM   #17
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
Any tips on how I might know that it's time to urge him to turn over the reins?
How did he react to the Bears thrashing of the hapless Seahawks? If he was enraged, red-faced and cussing as the winning field goal passed between the uprights, he's still OK. If he just shrugged and went to the fridge for another beer, I'd start watching him much more closely!
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?
Old 01-23-2007, 02:54 PM   #18
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Re: How do I know when Dad is loosing it?

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Originally Posted by youbet
How did he react to the Bears thrashing of the hapless Seahawks? If he was enraged, red-faced and cussing as the winning field goal passed between the uprights, he's still OK. If he just shrugged and went to the fridge for another beer, I'd start watching him much more closely!
That's not going to help - he's in Ohio, and has never been interested in football. Obviously not in his right mind, eh?
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