When someone shows signs of dementia, or Alzheimer’s, one of the initial concerns is about finances. How are Mom and Dad managing their money? Are they paying their home and car insurance? Are they paying their utility bills? Are they easy targets of elder abuse?
Determining when a person with dementia needs someone else to manage their money, or when someone is no longer capable of entering into a legal contract is not always easy. There is no exact answer or solution. Often doctors, lawyers and financial advisers are working in a “gray area.”
If you have concern that a loved one may not be capable of managing their money on their own, you may want to talk to them directly about it. Many times they will deny there is any trouble, and will say they don’t need help. Chances are they know they need help, and they are afraid. They don’t want to lose their independence or dignity. Some people won’t know when they need help. Talking about it opens the door for accepting assistance.
A next step would be to accompany your loved one to their physician’s visit, notifying the doctor ahead of time of your concerns. It is often times easier for an older person to accept a directive from a doctor rather than an adult child.
If your loved one needs help, you can assist in many ways, ranging from: monitoring their accounts online for suspicious transactions; helping them write their checks and managing the checkbook, and taking over all of their bill paying and financial responsibilities. Watch for potential elder fiduciary abuse through junk mail schemes, such as letters telling them they won the lottery or notices asking them to send money to “save their social security.”
This article touches on some of the thoughts and questions involved in the topic of elders and their finances. http://tiny.cc/ledrf
A geriatric care manager can be an excellent ally when talking to a loved one about difficult topics, or assess the situation neutrally and professionally.
Trust your instincts and watch for signs that your loved one may need more assistance. Be sensitive and compassionate, keeping in mind it is probably a sensitive and powerful issue for everyone involved.