Managing finances for elderly parents is one of the first ADLs (activities of daily living) that your family member will need help with. Paying bills, cashing checks, balancing the check book: all these require mental abilities that begin to fade with the onset of dementia.This is also the most difficult task for many suffering from dementia to allow another family member to oversee or take over the task. Many will do so reluctantly.
According to a recent study by the University of Alabama, one group of dementia sufferers in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease who began with 80% “financial capacity” decreased to 70% at the end of one year. Every year thereafter sees further declines.
The following suggestions can help make managing finances less stressful for you both and protect the monies from misuse and fraud.
Look for warning signs of trouble
- Takes more time coming up with the correct amount when paying at a restaurant
- Has a hard time making change
- Has a more difficult time balancing the checkbook
- Makes more errors when balancing the checkbook and becomes frustrated
- Pays the same bill more than once
- Forgets that a bill was paid
- Forgets when payments are due
- Forgets to cash or deposit checks
- Forgets to pay a bill
- Loses bills or checks
Step in before your family members dementia forces a change
While in the early stages of dementia and memory is still reasonably intact, gather all important documents, such as deeds, bank account and statement information, investments, benefits, wills, etc. This assumes you have power of attorney, or otherwise have permission to manage the funds.
When Managing Finances for Elderly Parents the person handling finances must be trustworthy…
If you are not the one handling your family member’s finances, make sure that the responsible party is trustworthy. This is especially important if the caregiver is a paid health care worker, such as CNA or personal care aid. Workers in your family member’s home will possibly have easy access to bank account, credit card, and benefits information, as well as any petty cash lying around. Managing finances sensibly includes severely restricting who has access to sensitive financial information.
If there is a group of siblings, and one is the primary caregiver, it is strongly recommended they consider a Family Caregiver Contract. As a primary caregiver ,you should be prepared to keep receipts and keep very good records on money spent on providing care. Uninvolved siblings many times try to elude that financial abuse is going on, even when it is not.
The most important thing a primer caregiver can do, to protect themselves, to be very transparent in the financial situation.
According to the study mentioned earlier, one of the most significant drops in the capacity to manage finances involved the ability to recognize mail or phone fraud. Of all the ADLs, managing finances ranks as the easiest to take advantage of. Make sure you know who the primary caregivers are and the access they have to financial data.
When Managing Finances for Elderly Parents, Count the costs
Caring for a family member with dementia involves more than merely assisting with ADLs. Managing finances also means allocating monies to pay for care and costs that will surely increase as the disease progresses. We will deal with this topic more fully elsewhere in this site.
Contact a financial advisor if necessary
Many caregivers are eligible for tax deductions or tax benefits, due to their role as caregiver. Expect this trend to continue as the population ages, more people get dementia, and a greater emphasis is placed on home care. A financial planner can also direct you to agencies that can help with resources designed to assist you with the care of your family member.