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Dementia and Money: What Caregivers Should Know

Jun 15, 2021 | 4 minute read

Son pushes his father around in a wheelchair

June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Gain insight into the important topic of dementia and money management in this quick guide.

If your parent or loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia you may have noticed them struggling to complete certain tasks, including those involving money. It’s important to identify if your loved one is having trouble because it could impact their financial well-being and even leave them susceptible to fraud.

What to Look For

A mountain of unpaid or unopened bills, strange new purchases, and missing money are all red flags your loved one may be struggling. You may also notice them having trouble counting money or understanding different aspects of their finances.

If you have access to their bank accounts, missing money or a sharp increase in credit card purchases can signal a potential issue as well.

How to Help

Promoting independence is beneficial to individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Doing so instills them with a sense of self-worth, so be mindful about which tasks you take over versus which ones remain your loved one’s responsibility.

For example, you can allow them to keep debit card access but set spending limits through Card Controls. This will minimize financial damage while still allowing them the freedom of making some purchases.

Ensure your loved one’s bills are being paid on time by helping them set up automatic payments. If you don’t have access to their account already, they can set you up as a co-signer to accomplish both of the options above.

Tip: General Electric Credit Union’s (GECU) Bill Pay feature allows Online Banking and mobile app users to set up automatic payments. It will even send email reminders when bills are due so you can always stay privy to your loved one’s financial needs!

There may come a time when it’s appropriate for you to handle all aspects of your loved one’s finances. A legal advisor can get the ball rolling on this important part of your caretaking responsibilities.

They – with your loved one’s consent – will set up a durable power of attorney designation, which allows you to manage transactions on someone’s behalf even in the event they become incapacitated.

Only 20% of adults with dementia can independently manage their finances, so this legal arrangement may prove essential as your loved one’s condition changes.1    

Fraud

A person may be more susceptible to fraud if they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia because they can still make financial decisions but may have impaired judgment. A criminal can use this to their advantage to collect personal or banking information and even illegally solicit money.

Establish on-going communication with your loved one about their finances, such as if they have a big purchase coming up or how much money they have in their savings account. Being up to speed on their situation will help you identify potential fraud.

Take your loved one off telemarketing lists to limit the number of incoming calls at their residence. Or, enlist a third party application to block robocalls on their phone. Both options will limit the number of strangers they talk to.

Tip: Learn more about elder financial abuse and how to avoid it in: Steer Clear of Elder Financial Abuse.

It’s vital to familiarize yourself with the unique challenges presented by dementia and money management. If there comes a time you need to set up a durable power of attorney, GECU is your touchpoint to start the process. As a GECU member, you are entitled to an initial consultation with a Wood + Lamping LLP attorney at no cost.* They understand every legal matter is personal and should be handled with care, so you can trust they’ll treat you and your loved one with dignity and compassion.

 

 

1Anek Belbase, and Geoffrey T Sazenbacher. “Cognitive Aging and the Capacity to Manage Money.” Center for Retirement Research, Jan. 2017.

*An initial consultation is at no cost to determine the extent of the work required. If you choose to move forward with that work, special rates just for GECU members may apply.

Legal Services, located in General Electric Credit Union’s Reading Road office, is provided through CUSO Corp. - a credit union service organization wholly owned by General Electric Credit Union. Legal Services provided through the law firm of Wood & Lamping LLP.

 

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