Dementia and finances

Dementia and Managing your Finances

A diagnosis of dementia is undoubtedly incredibly difficult to deal with.

The challenges are around Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as dementia with lewy bodies, are both emotional and financial – and it can feel impossible to manage issues surrounding your finances and money sensitively and effectively. As dementia progresses, communication will be key – especially when it comes to broaching the subject of managing your finances during cognitive decline.

Caring for family members with this dementia can understandably take an emotional and financial toll on families – as brain function is impaired and memory loss and confusion set in. Dementia care can be expensive, complicated and stressful to arrange – and on top of this patients often become unable to manage or understand their finances independently. In this informative article we explain how families and caregivers can broach the subject of financial support and decision-making prior to or following a diagnosis of dementia.

How can families cope with the emotional and financial strain of dementia?

There is sadly no cure for dementia – but the good news is that there are steps you can take now to properly plan for your loved one’s future. Thinking ahead can help to circumvent and avoid issues further down the line and offers a sense of reassurance and control for all involved.

As a family member or friend, you will be in the best position to spot signs of a change in judgement or the onset of acute memory loss.

If a diagnosis of dementia hasn’t yet been made, be vigilant and observant and decide when to intervene and recommend that tests are carried out. If a diagnosis has been made, it’s time to begin to make provisions for and organise your loved one’s finances. What and you do now and when will depend on the stage of dementia and the urgency involved – normally due to the individual’s unique situation and any previous conversations or provisions made.

Don’t forget to also consider someone’s physical and mental health.  You can read our guide on ‘keeping physically and mentally active with dementia”.

Knowing when to intervene

It can be difficult to know when to intervene – as during the early stages of dementia a person is often lucid and therefore is able to make their own financial decisions. Remember that certain arrangements such as making a will and Power Of Attorney can only be set up when the person is deemed to have full mental capacity – so it’s important to act now if there are loose ends left to tie.

Neglecting to do so could significantly affect the wellbeing of your loved one in addition to the health of their finances. It is best to remain observant and vigilant and agree to broach the subject when you feel it is appropriate and necessary, if there is adequate trust between you.

What are the signs of cognitive impairment surrounding finance 

Typical signs include:

Continued poor judgment and decision-making

Inability to manage a budget

Missing a monthly payment more than once

Losing track of the date or the season

– Difficulty holding a conversation

Sometimes forgetting which word to use or mixing up names of items or people

Misplacing things often and being unable to retrace steps to find them

Dementia affects cognitive ability and brain function, slowly depleting a person’s capacity to think clearly. Personality and mood changes can occur, along with decreased or poor judgment, confusion and memory loss.

Schedule regular check-ins and conversations with your loved one to help to identify and tackle problems early. Look for subtle changes in daily routine, such as lack of hygiene or mail left unopened for days on end. Medical professionals will also play an important role in monitoring how dementia is progressing and advising which actions you can take to support your loved one.

Start talking early about money management and finances

Conversations about aging, dementia and finances can be tricky and uncomfortable – but they’re also critically important – particularly if care provision is likely to be necessary later down the line.

With or without a diagnosis of dementia, it’s a good idea to plan for healthcare expenses now. Without a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, it will be very difficult for you to intervene as the symptoms of dementia become more prevalent.

Paying for Care

People with dementia often develop a requirement for care as the condition progresses, so it’s key to consider this now in order to be able to pay for care when the time comes. The costs of residential and home care are rising year on year – so it’s important for your loved one to decide how they are going to pay for the cost of care. You can do this together if they are struggling to take care of it themselves.  

Being aware of your loved one’s wishes and making provisions such as Power of Attorney early on ensures that you can make decisions for them – even when they are unable to do so themselves. 

There are two main types of power of attorney you can get:

Why is a Power of Attorney important

Power of Attorney is important for so many reasons – not least because this gives you the authority to carry out your loved one’s wishes and the financial control to release funds for key outlays such as care provision, medication and more. Try to broach difficult subjects such as end-of-life care head-on – as although it may be uncomfortable to do so now, remind your loved one that refusal may result in their wishes not being carried out once they lose mental capacity.

Gather relevant family members together to sit down and have an informal yet frank discussion regarding the future ahead.

Tips to start a conversation with a loved one about their finances

The following tips may help you to start a conversation such as this with your loved one:

Be sensitive and keep the conversation low key. Choose a quiet, calm and familiar environment for the discussion to take place.

Choose your words carefully. The language you use will influence the emotional response of your loved one. Convey your concern for them and make sure they understand that you have their best interests at heart. Try not to overwhelm or belittle them – instead propose a partnership between you which ensures that they are provided and cared for throughout the rest of their life.

Be clear and specific. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s mental capacity or cognitive decline, try to give clear and specific examples that you have noticed yourself.

Stay focused. Go into the discussion with a clear agenda and makea list to ensure that you cover all key points. If possible meet with other family members who will be present in advance to agree on approach and talking points. This is also a good opportunity to hear their opinions on various options and strategies available.

This is likely to be one conversation amongst many – and you’ll need to revisit the subject several times as things change. Schedule regular check-ins to stay on top of the situation, and keep in mind that the content of your discussions is likely to change as dementia progresses.

Warning signs to watch for

Unfortunately there will come a time when a person with dementia is unable to manage their own finances. This is where you as a relative or carer can step in and take over, in line with their original wishes. It can be difficult to know when the time is right to intervene and begin to fully and directly manage finances on behalf of your loved one. Signs to be aware of include:

– Loss of independence.

A direct request for help managing finances.

– Old age – over the age of 75 relatives begin to play a more active role in the financial lives of their loved ones.

– Severe confusion and memory loss.

– Inability to pay bills or remember PIN numbers and other financial details.

– Mobility loss resulting in inability to take care of food shopping and other general weekly or daily tasks.

– Loss of recognition – failing to remember the names and faces of those close to them.

A financial checklist for you to work through

Whether you suspect that your friend or relative has dementia or are dealing with a recent diagnosis, following a chronological financial checklist will help you to understand which factors need to be dealt with, and when.

Short-term tasks include:

– Putting a Lasting Power Of Attorney in place to ensure that appropriate family members can assist with finances when the time comes

– Ensuring that your will is current and complete.

Scanning and safely storing your legal documents, including passwords and a list of trusted advisors (financial advisor, solicitor)

– Setting up Direct Debits and other handy helps to ensure that all bills are paid on time despite forgetfulness or memory loss

– Make a will

Longer-term tasks include:

– Exploring care options and making plans and provisions for the possibility of a care need later down the line 

This article was first published on UK Care Guide.