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Dementia: slippery slope that may require a guardian

As members of what Tom Brokaw calls the greatest generation get older, they and family members face some hard realities. These were people who saw themselves and their country through some of the hardest times the world has ever known. Today they may find themselves unable to function with the independence they learned to cherish. What's worse, they often aren't aware because of dementia.

In such moments, whether the individuals involved are in New Jersey or somewhere else, the reality can be a bitter pill to take. Unless the issues have been addressed through properly executed documents to set up guardianship or a conservatorship, loved ones can become targets.

Such seems to have happened with one World War II bomber veteran down in Texas. Up until 2009, this 87-year-old hero had enjoyed the company of his spouse for 60 years. After she died, he got his pleasure in small ways, making the rounds of home town restaurants and flirting with waitresses.

Early this year, he happened to mention on one of his forays that he was looking for a live-in female caretaker and a waitress said she knew just the gal; a cousin, 200 miles away in Houston. Within a matter of days she had come to town. They met and the 58-year-old woman moved in in February.

According to court records about the case, one month later, the couple married. Ten days after that, about $17,000 got transferred from his bank to hers. A week after that, his three children, who live out of town, were cut out of his will and his new wife became the beneficiary. He also named her medical and financial power of attorney. He was moved into a nursing home and there was a failed attempt to deed his house to her.

On April 20, after senior services stepped in, a judge appointed a temporary guardian. A psychiatrist determined the man had been mentally incapacitated by dementia for at least a year.

Tomorrow, the guardian will seek to have the marriage annulled, and Texas authorities will be pursuing theft charges against the woman. She insists that she's done nothing but care for the elderly man. But one of his daughters, in an email that's in the court file, says he was fine until the woman from Houston entered the scene.

It's an example of what can happen without due diligence.

Source: San Antonio Express-News, "Sudden marriage now subject of court case," John MacCormack, Nov. 9, 2011

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