If the person you care for has dementia—memory or thinking problems from a condition such as Alzheimer’s, a stroke, or Parkinson’s—unpaid bills or a messy checkbook may have been your first sign that something was amiss. Certainly, in the later stages of dementia, your loved one won’t be able to manage their finances. But what about the in-between?
It’s tempting to simply take over once you discover errors. But being entitled to manage money and buy what we want is central to adulthood. Taking that away prematurely may spin your relative and your relationship into turmoil and may not even be within your legal rights.
Consider these strategies for respectful money management.
- Become power of attorney. Have your loved one legally allow you or another trusted person to make financial decisions.
- Protect their accounts. Put bills on autopay as much as possible. Freeze credit reports—used for opening new credit cards—on the three credit agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Ask vendors to notify you if a bill is unpaid.
- Block scammers. Create a fraud shield by registering your loved one’s phone number on the Do Not Call Registry.
- Provide some cash. Your loved one needs to feel empowered. This generation is cash oriented. Give them ten or twenty 1-dollar bills a week. Reconcile yourself that this “waste” is really an investment in their self-esteem.
- Set weekly limits on their ATM card. Especially if they are accustomed to doing their own withdrawals.
- Consider a monitored prepaid credit card. You set a monthly and per-purchase limit. The card will decline any sale if it’s over budget. Cards such as True Link Visa allow you to block certain vendors (liquor stores, casinos, online ordering, and phone orders). Some have settings to alert you if your relative is initiating a restricted activity.