Money and Alzheimer’s
I took over my mother's finances after she was diagnosed with the
I started noticing signs that my mom's memory was fading, I was too
afraid to tell her that I thought she might have dementia or
Alzheimer's disease. So I called her primary-care physician and asked
him to suggest during her next appointment that it would be a good
idea for her to see a specialist to check for memory loss.
took his advice, though the first neurologist she saw said that her
test results came back relatively normal. Thankfully, one of her
friends stepped in and took her to another doctor, who did diagnose
her with Alzheimer's disease.
diagnosis affirmed what I already knew -- that my mom's ability to
handle financial tasks (as well as daily activities, such as cooking,
bathing and dressing) would erode, possibly very quickly. As such, I
told myself that I couldn't be afraid to step in and start helping
her manage her finances. Here's how I did it:
got power of attorney.
After my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I knew I had to act
quickly to get power of attorney to handle financial transactions for
her. Without it, I wouldn't be able to access her accounts, sign
checks for her or manage her money when she was no longer able to do
so. And I couldn't wait until she didn't have the mental capacity to
handle financial transactions before I secured this document. For a
power of attorney to be valid, the person has to be competent when he
or she signs it. Otherwise, you'll have to go to court, and a judge
will have to deem your parent incompetent.
used the diagnosis to start a conversation with my mom about the
disease and how it meant her memory and ability to do things would
only get worse. I told her that I wanted to be able to help her. To
do so, I said we needed to meet with an attorney to draft all the
necessary legal documents. She agreed.
mom granted what's called a durable power of attorney to both my
sister and me. It took effect immediately, and it will stay in effect
even if she's declared incompetent. Another option is a so-called
springing power of attorney, which will not take effect until your
parent is deemed incompetent by a doctor. We opted against a
springing POA because we were concerned that a doctor might be
hesitant to sign anything that could lead to a legal dispute.
I had this document, I started contacting financial institutions at
which my mom had accounts. Proof of power of attorney varied from
institution to institution. Some simply took my word for it; others,
such as her credit card company, wanted me to send the original
document, but I insisted that I could send only a copy because my
mother's attorney had instructed me never to send the original (which
could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands). We went together
to her bank, which required that she sign documents giving me power
of attorney for her account there.
started monitoring her accounts.
My mother isn't tech savvy -- she doesn't even own a computer. And
that worked to my advantage. I was able to set up online access to
her accounts to monitor them, using passwords of my choosing. I
wanted to take her checkbook away because she had been giving freely
to almost every charitable organization that sent her a donation
request. To do this, I suggested setting up automatic bill payments
so that she wouldn't need paper checks, but she balked. Instead, I
went through her mail every time I visited to weed out solicitations
from organizations to which she had no ties. I wasn't able to take
away her checkbook until two years after her diagnosis, when I moved
her into my home.
took away all but one of her credit cards.
Experts I spoke with said that it was okay to be sneaky at times when
dealing with people with Alzheimer's in order to protect them
financially. That could mean going through a purse, finding a
checkbook and copying down an account number so that you can monitor
the account, or surreptitiously looking through files to get a better
picture of a parent's finances. In my case, I pulled all but one of
the credit cards out of my mom's wallet when she wasn't looking. For
someone who could easily leave her purse behind without noticing, it
was too much of a risk for her to carry all those cards.
my mom didn't have a debit card. She simply used checks to get cash
from her account. I left her with one credit card to pay for things
when she didn't have cash on hand. This card was issued by her bank,
and because I had set up online access to her bank accounts, I was
able to monitor her use of it.
my mother moved in with me, it was much easier to take over her
finances entirely. Even before that point, though, I was incredibly
lucky because my mother was willing to let me help her. The few times
she resisted my efforts, I simply backed off and tried again later or
used a different approach. I've also been grateful that my sister and
I have never had any arguments over how to manage my mom's money.
not always this easy for children to help parents with financial
tasks, though. Some parents don't want to be told what to do by their
kids; others are suspicious of their kids' motives. If you're in this situation.
also can reach out to a third party, such as your parents' doctor,
attorney or accountant, to suggest that your parents let you lend a
hand. They might be more receptive if the advice comes from a
professional they trust. Or you can hire a geriatric care manager,
who can facilitate communication between you and your parents.
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