As a caregiver, it can be difficult to watch your loved one suffer from the effects of a disease such as Alzheimer’s or the symptoms of dementia. What can be even more troubling is realizing that they may or may not be able to make the decisions needed to maintain financial stability at this stage of their life. Managing money is a sensitive topic and must be treated delicately as it can quickly cause a rift between even the closest of family members. Your loved one may be spending indiscriminately without meaning to or may not even remember their purchases after the fact. How can you ensure that they are fully protected during this challenging time while maintaining their dignity and being transparent with any other family members?
Financial Challenges for Older Americans
Throughout our lives, we work hard to ensure that we provide for our aging years as well as have something to leave behind for future generations. What dementia patients may not be aware of is how quickly they are burning through their reserves through simple mistakes. Some issues that you may discover include:
- Getting far behind on debt payments, resulting in overwhelming interest charges or penalties
- Overspending through multiple donations to charity (weekly instead of annually, for instance)
- Unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of their confusion with phone or email-based scams
Each of these situations can potentially be resolved by ensuring that your loved one has the adequate legal and financial protection that they need during this time in their life. Depending on how far their symptoms have progressed, you may need to spend time with your loved one patiently explaining what’s happening. Remaining calm and collected is exceptionally important, as the lack of control they are already feeling may lead to excessive aggression or further confusion. Over time, you will see ways that you can step in to offer them financial recommendations they can trust.
Obtain Legal Protection
Starting the process to obtain legal protection in the early stages of your loved one’s dementia offers the greatest level of protection. Once dementia has progressed past a certain point, many states no longer allow individuals to enter into legal agreements. This could potentially cause the estate to fall into disarray and make any will that is created during this period invalid. Instead, a proactive effort to become the guardian or conservator of their estate allows another to make financial decisions and manage money on their behalf. A durable power of attorney or a revocable trust are other options that allow the trustee to make decisions while still providing some power and authority to the patient.
Evaluating Financial Situations
Once your loved one’s financial assets are protected by a guardianship or will, the next step is to help identify all the resources at your disposal for their support. The government, the Alzheimer’s Association, community support groups and your local church are some of the best ways to help your loved one receive the care and comfort that they deserve and to maintain their quality of life.
- Tips for caring for an aging relative from the Alzheimer’s Association include identifying costs of care and checking potential Veteran’s benefits
- Government benefits for aging individuals include Medicare, Medicare Part D for drug coverage and Medigap for Medicare supplemental insurance
- Individuals under the age of 65 may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Meals on Wheels and other community support options that may be available in your area
Perhaps the most important guidance that can be offered comes from Maria Shriver with NBC News. In an interview with the author of “Alzheimer’s and the Law”, Kerry R. Peck, Ms. Shriver notes that transparency is critical to success. Family members must be fully on board, with open discussions around levels of care, in-home support and estate planning. Family feuds not only add stress during an already-difficult situation but can be increasingly expensive. End-of-life care is already costly, and heated discussions can be especially damaging to an individual suffering from dementia. When open, honest communication occurs and the outcomes are clearly documented through legal means, conversations are much easier all around.
Our aging parents and family members have protected their loved ones for many years, and now is the time to help support them in their time of need. Living with dementia can already be incredibly frightening. Keep this in mind when finding financial assistance for your aging loved one. Turn to the community at SeniorCaregiverAlliance.org to learn more and help support others in their journey.