Caring for a loved one with dementia at home can be very rewarding, but it also comes with many challenges. One major area that is often overlooked is how to manage the personal finances of someone with dementia. As the disease progresses, the person will gradually lose the ability to manage financial matters, which can lead to serious problems if not addressed early on. With some planning and safeguards in place, you can protect their finances and avoid undue stress as you take over money management responsibilities.
Recognizing Signs of Financial Difficulties
The first step is to watch for early signs that handling money is becoming problematic. This includes having trouble counting change, balancing a checkbook, or understanding statements. Unpaid bills, unusual purchases on credit cards, and unexplained missing money can also signal issues. Review statements regularly to catch problems before they spiral out of control.
Taking Over Financial Management
Once dementia impacts their ability to manage finances, you will likely need to take over. This can be a sensitive issue, so approach it with care and understanding. Get legal authorization through power of attorney if possible while they can still comprehend. Discuss it as wanting to learn and provide help, not take away their independence. Minimize changes at first like lowering credit limits and providing a small amount of cash for needs.
Preventing Financial Abuse and Fraud
Even early on, people with dementia are extremely vulnerable to financial abuse and scams. Watch for missing possessions, changes to wills, unknown account withdrawals, signatures that seem suspicious, and contact about shady get-rich schemes. Never give out personal information over the phone or email. Report suspected scams to the police and consult a lawyer about fraud liability.
Tools for Managing Finances
- Set up automatic bill payments through bank accounts to maintain utilities, mortgage, insurance, and other regular expenses.
- Consolidate accounts to simplify money management. Close unused credit cards.
- Give read-only access to financial advisors for guidance.
- Use money management apps or software to track income, bills, spending, and investments.
- Get duplicates of monthly statements if you are not the joint account holder.
- Consider hiring a daily money manager consultant for help.
Explore Financial Assistance Options
Caring for someone with dementia can be costly. Look into financial assistance programs like Medicaid, veterans benefits,long-term care insurance, community groups, and state elder programs. These can help cover medical bills, in-home care costs, medications, housing, and more. Consult a financial advisor or social worker for guidance.
While managing finances for a loved one with dementia poses challenges, taking proactive steps to monitor their money, assume control, prevent fraud, utilize tools, and seek assistance can help the process go smoothly. This ensures you can focus on providing the compassionate care they need while avoiding added worries over financial issues.