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Managing finances for a loved one with dementia

Managing Finances for a Loved One with Dementia

Navigating financial matters can be a sensitive topic for anyone, regardless of age. For individuals diagnosed with dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, this can be especially complex. As the disease progresses and behavior shifts, managing finances can become increasingly challenging. Many individuals with dementia may resist or become reluctant to share or relinquish control over their financial affairs. This presents unique challenges for caregivers and family members seeking to ensure their loved one’s financial well-being while respecting their autonomy.

And yet financial control is important for trusted family members to have, especially as the disease progresses. Instead of engaging in a constant tug of war, there are approaches you can take which can minimize disruption and anxiety while you take the burden off the back of your loved one.

First, get everyone on board, including your loved one with dementia.

Sitting down and discussing financial issues with other family members should be done in advance of approaching your loved one with dementia. You will want to identify the family member who is in the best position to discuss financial matters, hopefully one who gets along well and can explain things in a positive way.

Here are the key areas you will need to address before gaining control:

  • Durable power of attorney (POA). A POA is a legal document that gives you complete control over the finances of your loved one. A lawyer can guide you through the process. It must be undertaken with great care and respect as it must be accepted and signed by your loved one. It is the most important step in obtaining control over finances.
  • Insurance. This will include gathering information on all types of insurance. That includes medical insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, and long-term care insurance if they have it.
  • Banking. Over the years a person can store money in multiple financial institutions. It is important to identify all of them and keep track of the balance in each. You will need their bank account numbers to do so. It may make sense to close out some accounts and consolidate to make it easier to control.
  • Cash flow. Look at incoming cash flow from social security, annuities, and other forms of income.
  • Expenses. This can be a long list, so it is important to take the time to look through everything. This may include home mortgage, credit card payments, car payments and utilities. Are they within budget or are they accumulating debt? Review their statements for automatic payments and other regular debits. For planning purposes look at their needs for health products, drugs, and other expenses. How will these increase over the upcoming months/years?

If your loved one has a financial advisor and you have a POA in place, now is the time to get in touch with them. They can be an excellent source of information. They will be able to help you and your loved one understand their investments, assets, bank accounts, and their overall financial situation.

Now you are ready to move on to the basics of getting more control over finances. 

The National Institute on Aging has published some useful tips to help family members gain the needed control over finances for a loved one diagnosed with dementia while respecting their independence.

We’ve summarized them below:

  • Discuss setting up a budget. This can be done on paper or, if they are comfortable with computers, you can go online with them and point out useful websites.
  • Set up automatic bill pay. If they don’t already have it, this will help prevent late or unpaid bills. You can arrange for mortgage, utilities, rent, and other payments to be automated.
  • Discuss their spending as it relates to “needs” versus “wants”. Consider setting up a small account your loved one can draw from with clear limits to use of credit cards. 
  • Offer to go shopping with them. That way you can monitor what they are putting in the basket and help them make better choices on the spot, avoiding issues afterwards. You might also offer to do some of their shopping yourself, which gives you complete control.

There are several on-line resources available to help. The Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of legal documents, including POAs, which you can access here.

Many of us at Anthem Memory Care have experienced firsthand the experience of transitioning into the role of caregiver for a parent or other loved one. We know how complex the surrounding issues are, especially as they relate to gaining financial control. Feel free to contact any of our communities for information, additional resources, or just a sympathetic ear.

We’re here to help!