LETTERS AND COMMENTS REGARDING:
Author With Dementia…Or Victim Of Daughter’s Deceit? Who Would You Believe?!
I would write back to the daughter, telling her that her lie has put you
in an impossible legal position and that, as a business person, you are
obligated to send her father the copy of her email…and that she should
tell him herself that she did not pay the fees.
P.S. call a lawyer yourself just to be sure
This is a very tough case. Children do try to take advantage of demented parents, but people with dementia are very often unaware of what is really going on and frequently make accusations about poor treatment by their children that are, in fact, false. I used to work in this field. Even physicians get duped. The upshot is, you are in no position to be able to evaluate what is going on. You’re not an expert and you’re not there. You’ve never met these people. I think you need to make clear that you can’t be complicit in the daughter’s lies, even if she is lying for all the best reasons. It puts you at legal and ethical risk. She needs to find a way to work this out with her father without getting you involved. It’s nice to see a businessperson like you who actually cares and wants to do the right thing. Good luck!
Hmm… difficult one. The safest route is to contact a lawyer specializing in guardianship issues and ask them how to proceed. Otherwise, I’d get back to the author & explain that you believe no payment had been made, however you’ll double-check your records, (effectively buying a little time) and also clarify if his daughter is functioning as his bookkeeper or has power of attorney, as you need to know if his daughter can countermand his decisions. I’d also e-mail daughter explaining that author has continued to contact you and asking daughter for proof of legal guardianship and/or proof of appointment as author’s bookkeeper and/or holding power or attorney. If she’s his bookkeeper, she needs to forward payment; otherwise, she needs to advise father that she hasn’t actually made payment and will not be. Either way, you also need to clarify that claiming your business is engaging in fraud isn’t acceptable. Unfortunately, basing decisions purely on a second-party’s say-so is not sound business practice. Interested to see what your response was, and how matters worked out.
As a former business owner, I would deal only with the client, not relatives or friends. They are not the client. At this point I would respond to the client with the facts – “Payment has not been received on this account.” It is not my responsibility to determine the mental capacity of the client, or the rights of the relative in the bill paying process. In my former business, I handled the bill paying for seniors some of whom had relatives who kept track on their own. It was up to them to take the necessary steps to gain control if needed. Until they had a court order they had no standing. In cases where I wondered about the client’s mental capacity, which in some cases diminished the longer we worked together, I might inquire of the client why they were paying out to someone, but until they are officially declared incapacitated and handling of money officially turned over to someone else, it is my opinion you simply have no power to intercede. Do keep a paper trail of your communications with client and family.
His daughter put you in a very bad position. You need to contact her again and let her know that you’re obligated to tell your client the truth, that you have not received the payment, and that in the future his requests for more books but be faxed in and have BOTH signatures and a notorized stamp. That will take the onus of being the bad guy off you.
I was the owner and publisher of a small chain of senior citizens newspapers in Canada for nearly 20 years and dementia is a topic we discussed fairly often in our pages.
Your contract is with a certain individual, not the relatives. If the son/daughter/other wishes to deal with the client’s affairs, then they need a power of attorney or other legal document authorizing them to do so. This is probably the only protection for you, as if you deal with the author and he/she actually does have dementia issues, you could possibly be held liable after being warned. Although a court might not find that to be the case, defending against it would be very costly.
If you deal with the son/daughter/other, you could easily be sued by the author for doing so – and even the son/daughter/other in the extreme case as you didn’t have authority to deal with them.
I recognize and applaud your concern and that you wish to do the right thing – but given the potential for litigation, you need to protect yourself. As noted above, should an elderly client start acting oddly, it’s best to speak to someone with some authority. In Ontario, Canada, we have the Public Trustee, who can look into these affairs, particularly if there is no relative available. I’m sure there is a similar authority in your state. Your last fallback is to contact a relative – again, opening yourself to liability for discussing your author’s private affairs with someone else.
There are no easy answers here.
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