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Dementia and Elder Financial Abuse - We Can Help

Events of financial abuse, and specifically the scamming of unsuspecting and trusting older persons with dementia, occur too frequently. Such occurrences will reduce or even eliminate the life savings of unsuspecting elders. Those with dementia are at even greater risk of financial abuse than the general population. Over time, they increasingly have trouble with the many tasks involved in managing money.

Difficulty Managing Money - The Warning Signs

  • Difficulty determining change or paying for a purchase
  • Difficulty balancing a checkbook, or having an overdrawn account
  • Forgetting to pay their regular bills
  • Unusual charges on a credit card bill, or unusual merchandise in the home
  • A pile of mail with overdue bills

Early in the disease process the ability to manage the simpler tasks of money management (i.e. making change or paying for a purchase) may be intact. As time goes on, however, even the simpler tasks become too hard. The more complex tasks of managing money, such as balancing a checkbook or making investment decisions, are difficult earlier in the disease process.

You are Your Loved One’s Protector

If you discover your loved one is unable to manage their money, what can you do to put safeguards in place to assist and protect them, and their finances? Some immediate measures to help include:

  • Add a co-signer to their bank accounts, which will make bill paying and purchases easier to accomplish.
  • Automate bill paying where possible. This will ensure bills are paid on time.
  • If it gives them some comfort, provide a small amount of money they can carry in their wallet or purse.
  • If they are able and interested, include your loved one in the bill paying process.

The U.S. Administration on Aging, in their 2015 report “Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Individuals with Dementia Who Live Alone” identifies additional steps a family member or family caregiver should take to protect one from financial exploitation:

  • Limit credit card access.
  • Review their credit report yearly, at a minimum.
  • Set up a post office box for mail.

Lastly, the larger action steps are legal and financial. As each state has specific laws, be sure to consult with an attorney in your loved one’s state to understand what legal steps are needed to protect your loved one and their financial assets.