Today’s New York Times ran a front-page article titled, “Money Woes Can Be Early Clue to Alzheimer’s,” by Gina Kolata. In particular, the article focused on the impact of the beginning of dementia on families, financial advisors, and lawyers. Families struggle to keep their loved ones from becoming victims of fraud or simply failing to meet their financial obligations. Financial advisors reported that, although they suspected that they had clients who have Alzheimer’s or are developing it, they feel ill-equipped to deal with those clients. Attorneys have a duty to protect their clients, but how best to honor that obligation can be difficult to determine when an attorney see signs of developing dementia.
As a mediator, I see potential for conflict for families and aging loved ones. As they face the challenges presented by dementia, they will see no easy answers and many opportunities to disagree about how to proceed. If the family can find a way to keep lines of communication open and work together, they will have one common “enemy” — the disease itself — instead of fighting each other as well. A mediator can help families faced with these tough times.