How to Help Seniors in Decision Making

Last week’s column titled, “Reduce your gullibility to scams” described the process by which physiologically, Seniors are more susceptible to being more easily scammed than younger people due to a damage to their frontal cortex, which helps younger people be more skeptical and better able to be less easily fooled. The question now is, how do we graciously assist our elders without suggesting that their “risk doubts” are less active than they had previously been?

As adult children or grandchildren of seniors, it is our responsibility to be vigilant about our elder family member’s financial dealings and offer our assistance with reviewing their expenditures to ascertain that they are not being taken advantage of by others, whose intentions may not be pure. Most seniors welcome a second review of their finances by family members whom they trust and respect.

Many elders may be aware that their skills in supervising their own budget may have deteriorated with time, but may be uncomfortable in asking for help in this area. Thus, it is the children and adult grandchildren of seniors, job to protect the interests of their seniors by offering to aid in balancing the checkbook, confirming the veracity of various bills as they assure the senior that he or she is still in charge of managing his/her financial decisions.

Despite a reduction in suspiciousness with age, many elders hold on to the belief that they are still competent, alert and not easily fooled by misleading advertisements and various, illogical solicitations.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found that “the process of disbelief that is mediated by a specific part of the brain that tends to lose structural integrity and thus, the vulnerability to misleading information, outright deception and fraud is unchecked.”

The difficulty one may encounter in trying to assist an elder is that with the tendency to trust strangers, some seniors misguidedly focus their mistrust upon some family members. So, they become hostile to a caring family member and open to a stranger’s assurance that “They have been selected for this privilege”. The flattery and “special good fortune” is very soothing to some seniors, since several of their doubtful instincts have been drastically weakened.

It may be wise for adult children to select a family member whose trust has been earned by the senior and use this individual as the conduit for advising the senior who is resistant to other family members’ input.

Old age brings many functional and intellectual loses to many people. Yet, the psyche, in an effort to protect the Senior’s dignity, may lead him/her to become more resistant and argumentative with those who intend to help than to strangers who “chose then” for this prize!

To aid an elder with decision making:

– Choose a son/daughter, or even a grandchild whom the elder trusts, as the intermediary in advising the senior about life decisions.

– Abstain from feeling hurt if you are not the “chosen family member” whom the elder can most easily trust.

 

 

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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