A Person-Centered Approach to Financial Capacity Assessment: Preliminary Development of a New Rating Scale

Authors:  Peter Lichtenberg, Wayne State University; Jonathan Stoltman, Wayne State University; Lisa Flicker, Wayne State University; Madelyn Iris, CJE SeniorLife; Benjamin Mast, University of Louisville, Kentucky

Publication: Clinical Gerontologist

Year: 2015

Focus Area: 2000 to present, Aging, Decision Making; Financial Literacy

Relevance: Impairment in financial decision making is associated with increased susceptibility to financial exploitation in older adults, yet existing assessment instruments use neutral or hypothetical stimuli (e.g., “How could you be sure the price of a car is fair?”) rather than stimuli that examine the specific individual’s actual situation and financial judgment or transaction. The Lichtenberg Financial Decision Rating Scale (LFDRS) uses a person-centered method to identify functioning and risk in five domains: financial situational awareness, psychological vulnerability, sentinel financial decision/transaction, financial exploitation, and undue influence.

Summary: The LFDRS was developed through Concept Mapping methods and input from experts fields related to financial capacity, elder abuse, and aging. Reliability of the instrument was was tested by videotaping its administration with five older adults. Five experts watched the interviews and independently rated the integrity of a participant’s financial decisional abilities as fully capable, marginally capable, or not capable. The final scale consists of 61 multiple-choice questions that were asked of
all participants. Application of this scale can improve gerontologists’ ability to assess financial capacity and vulnerability to financial exploitation.

Author Abstract: Financial exploitation and financial capacity issues often overlap when a gerontologist assesses whether an older adult’s financial decision is an autonomous, capable choice. Our goal is to describe a new conceptual model for assessing financial decisions using principles of person-centered approaches and to introduce a new instrument, the Lichtenberg Financial Decision Rating Scale (LFDRS). We created a conceptual model, convened meetings of experts from various disciplines to critique the model and provide input on content and structure, and selected final items. We then videotaped administration of the LFDRS to five older adults and had 10 experts provide independent ratings. The LFDRS demonstrated good to excellent interrater agreement. The LFDRS is a new tool that allows gerontologists to systematically gather information about a specific financial decision and the decisional abilities in question.

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