One of the most challenging interactions with aging parents is broaching the subject of finances. They typically resist sharing that side of their lives and, frankly, would prefer not to be asked at all! And yet, as your parents grow older, the truth is that they will be needing more help to handle bills, banking and other financial needs that arise.
When an individual is challenged with dementia, they can be particularly vulnerable to financial struggles. Even in the early stages, they may have a hard time balancing a checkbook, depositing and transferring funds and budgeting on a daily basis. Long term financial planning quickly gets out of reach. And that’s when real financial issues can occur.
If you have a parent in the earlier stages of dementia, there are actions you will need to take to assess the situation and begin to gain greater control. We understand that this is easier said than done! But, armed with information and some tried and true communications tactics, you can begin the process in a way that is both respectful and productive. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Check in with family members. Before you approach your parent, identify which family members might be most helpful as you work to gain greater control. Bounce ideas off them. Encourage their involvement.
- Schedule a talk with your parent. Pick a time and place when he/she is most alert and will feel more relaxed. Consider having your initial conversation one-on-one. Having siblings or a spouse present may be intimidating.
- Be respectful, yet firm. First, it's important to understand that this is not a “one and done” discussion. It will take time and patience. Start with a few facts under your belt. For instance, if mom has struggled with writing checks, that might be a good place to start by offering help. If dad missed a few bills, you might use that as a starting point.
- Create an action list for follow up. And, most importantly, keep things moving. There is often a tendency to drop the ball after the initial discussion, especially if it was difficult, and put off taking action. Don’t give up!
- Gather information and gain greater control. As your parent begins to open up, you will need access to bank records, bills, loans and medical costs, among other things. This is also a good time to consult with an attorney about gaining a Power of Attorney. It will make this process much easier.
Of course, if your parent’s dementia has progressed further than the initial stages, you will need to quickly gain Power of Attorney and accelerate the process of gaining financial (and medical) control. This is where close family members and/or friends can be supportive, so be sure to reach out. This is not a journey you should be taking alone!
At Anthem Memory Care communities, we speak often with family caregivers who find themselves suddenly in the challenging role of parent caregiver. We understand the complexities involved and the anxiety that taking over their finances can cause. Feel free to contact one of our communities near you.
We’re here to help!