COMMENT:

Q: I'm hoping you may be able to steer me in the right direction. My ailing grandfather, who is 88, is showing early signs of dementia and diminished decision-making ability, but is refusing to allow family members to help manage his finances.

Reading between the lines of a letter he showed me, he still has a floating mortgage of about $140,000, which appears to still have 23 years to run, at which stage he would be 111 years old! I'm staggered that his bank would be allowed, under the responsible lending rules, to provide such financing.

He also has a $1000 overdraft with that bank and a $7500 overdraft with another bank, both of which are almost maxxed out. We also know he has $3500 owing to one of the department stores on its loyalty card.

Is there anything we can do to protect him from further financial risk? The interest rates on the overdrafts and the card are huge. His doctor is more concerned about physical safety, health and well-being, but we can't be too far away from debt collectors coming knocking unnecessarily and taking things he regards as precious or meaningful. Any help appreciated.

A: Gosh, difficult stuff.

Even though your family hasn't complained to your granddad's bank, I decided to forward your letter to the Banking Ombudsman Scheme. Normally, the BOS looks into situations only after a complaint has failed to resolve an issue. But the people there are used to dealing with situations like yours, so I thought they might offer some suggestions. And they did.

This sort of situation is becoming increasingly common, says Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden, "as our society ages and people are either reluctant to give up their independence or are concerned about financial abuse of the

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