Experiencing something personally, in real time, is very different than reading about it, talking about it or observing it.

I have yet another example of this from the death of my father in August.

My father was an extremely intelligent man with a Master’s degree in engineering and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg school of Business at Northwestern. His engineer training made his preparations for just about everything very thorough. When the early signs of dementia arose, he was quick to get the usual recommended documents updated.

I have read about the progression of dementia. I have talked about it and I have observed it in other families. My purpose today to emphasize to you that living through it is a whole other ballgame.

Our plan worked and from the outside it worked very well. Dad was active for the first couple of years. During the last few months, he had a couple of minor slips but never had an injury of real substance and he never injured anyone else. Other than his last five days, he stayed at home.

Financially, the elderly, particularly those with cognitive issues, are very vulnerable. They can make poor decisions and they are targets of fraudsters and scam artists. Dad spent money on things he didn’t need and there were plenty attempts to scam him but the financial damage was minimal.

These good outcomes were the result of good planning, good execution of the plan and some safeguards we used. At the core of this success was the estate planning documents, particularly the power of attorney and their trust. My parents are not well-to-do and have no tax issues to worry about. Their story is a wonderful example of how estate planning is about much more than taxes.

As Dad’s faculties declined, Mom used the POA to get the bank to tighten things up. He was responding to their offers of new credit card accounts, personal loans and home equity loans. She got the bank to stop that.  

As the disease worsened, his sleeping pattern got out of whack. He’d be up all-night watching infomercials and surfing the net. Things they didn’t need would arrive at the house. Sometimes he would argue that he did need an item but in time, he wouldn’t have any recollection of ordering things let alone why he placed the order.

Mom first lowered the credit limit on his cards so if he bought something unneeded, the amount to deal with would be less. Eventually, she had to shut down his credit cards completely.

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