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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


It is a very sad reality that diminished financial capacity will impact some of us as we age.

In an address given at an event during Financial Planning week, which was sponsored by the Financial Planning Standards Council, Carole Cohen, a geriatric psychiatrist and professor with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, highlighted some of the warning signs and more specifically what to look for when it comes to money management. Here are some of them:

  • Decline in checkbook management skills
  • Arithmetic mistakes
  • Inconsistent and unusual instructions. For example, requests to take out large sums of money may signal financial abuse, a change of financial instructions in terms of POA, liquidating of assets, restructuring of portfolios.
  • Being forgetful and have difficulty keeping facts straight

But beware: Cognitively-impaired clients may retain social graces. It is easy to miss impairment.

If you are concerned and wondering more specifically what to look for when trying to determine if a client is impaired, look at the fours Cs of capacity, identified by the Regional Geriatric Program of Toronto: 

Context: Does the person understand their situation and problems?

Choices: Does the person understand their choices?

Consequences: Does the person understand the ramifications?

Consistency: Does the person make a consistent choice?

Make sure to document everything if you are dealing with a vulnerable person by using simple, slow language and open-ended questions. Slow things down by taking notes.

The challenges are not only protecting the financial assets and bad financial decisions – it is also important to watch for signs of elder financial abuse. Our seniors deserve to be protected and helped when needed.