Aging is difficult, especially if you have dementia. In a recent story from NPR titled, “An older person's money management errors may be a sign of some sort of dementia,” reporter, Sarah Boden, speaks with people across America who have experienced the effects of dementia on family finances. The conversations are insightful, yet heartbreaking.
“Dementia specialists say money problems can be one of the first signs of trouble,” NPR reported. Experts spoke of elders being scammed or taken advantage of by financial institutions and family members, but stories also included reckless spending and seniors forgetting to mail out checks. Everyone should be on the lookout for financial predators and missteps as their loved ones begin to age.
The story continues, citing, “One study of some 81,000 Medicare recipients found that people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias started to develop poor credit up to six years before their diagnosis.” Dementia comes in many different forms which can impact someone’s ability to handle their money. But one thing is clear: dementia negatively impacts cognition and memory, two functions necessary for taking care of financial duties such as paying bills.
Many seniors value their independence, making conversations about money and aging emotionally challenging. And although financial institutions are taking steps to protect seniors from scams and thoughtless spending, the responsibility ultimately falls on family and friends who know the aging person and their values.
It can be hard to see the impact of dementia on a loved one’s finances, especially if you live out of state, but it’s important to check in to avoid catastrophe. This was especially important for one family in the story who needed money to afford their mother’s care, but lost out on selling their home due to foreclosure because her dementia made her unable to pay the mortgage.
There are private companies that will keep an eye on finances for a monthly fee and certain accounts allow owners to add a trusted contact to be notified in case of any major withdrawals, but these options aren’t available or appropriate for everyone. In estate planning, a Durable Power of Attorney is a document which grants someone you know and trust the authority to access all of your financial accounts.
It’s a huge act of trust and respect to give someone that much access to your finances, but it’s often vital for estate planning purposes. For instance, if your loved one is in the hospital for an extended period of time, someone will need to go to their residence and pay the bills before they begin to pile up. But banks are built to keep people’s money safe, which is why a legally binding document is necessary to handle someone else’s finances when they are unable to.
Speak with an estate planning attorney licensed in your state if you begin to notice things are changing with you or your loved one’s cognition and spending habits. Making sure the family home and other assets are protected can be immensely helpful for the next generation – start the process today by giving us a call: 713-429-0218