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Alzheimer’s and Finances: How to Gain Control with Love and Respect

It’s hard to talk to parents about their finances. They are, after all, of a generation where any discussion about finances, especially with their children, was pretty much off the table.

Having a parent who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, however, changes everything. You need to gain a quick and accurate understanding of the state of their finances. Waiting too long can result in unwelcome surprises downstream as bills pile up and care options become limited.

If you are in this challenging situation, first know that you are not alone. We talk with many adult children who agonize over discussing finances with a parent. They may want to bring up the topic, yet are fearful of upsetting an already delicate emotional balance.

We’re here to help. Below are some important steps you will need to take to properly organize and take charge of your parent’s financials.

While your parent’s cognition level is still normal or near-normal:

  1. Make a list of the things you need to know. The more prepared you are in advance, the less likely you will stray into areas that may cause unnecessary anxiety for both of you.
  2. Schedule your talk at a time and place where you will not be interrupted.
  3. Keep the first discussion simple. Don’t bombard him or her with demands. Start by asking for help in making sure that you have access to all documents, in the event of an emergency.
  4. Review all the documents before meeting again. Take time to discuss them with other family members and/or a financial advisor.
  5. Share your information and provide options, if possible. It’s important for your mom or dad to build trust in your ability to make decisions. Your approach should be loving and calm.
  6. Create an action list for follow up. This is just as important as having that initial discussion. Don’t drop the ball. Involve other willing family members. Ideally, these should be joint decisions.

When your parent’s cognition has declined and he or she cannot attend to their own affairs:

  1. Gain Power of Attorney. This will require working with an Elder Law attorney and your parent to properly designate yourself to make financial decisions on behalf of him or her. The attorney can also help ensure that any stipulations in your parent’s living will are addressed and any state-specific regulations met.
  2. Complete all HIPAA forms, as required by health care providers and insurance agencies.
  3. Make sure you have legal access to your parent’s bank accounts and safe deposit boxes.

Of course, the sooner you tackle these last three items, the better. When a parent develops dementia or Alzheimer’s, they will eventually need to pass all control over to a family member. Doing so early on will make things easier downstream.

Taking control of a parent’s finances is tough, to say the least. But, with advance planning and a loving, respectful approach, you will be in a position to make the best possible financial decisions on your mom’s or dad’s behalf.

Have some questions? Feel free to contact an Anthem community near you. We’re here to listen and provide you with local resources to make the road ahead easier.