Helping Family Members with Dementia to Get Finances in Order
It can be extremely difficult emotionally to take care of a family member with dementia. While getting proper care and medical help is important, what’s also important is to respect your loved one’s existing autonomy while also managing the fact that they may not mentally be able to handle their own finances. Taking on the financial matters of an ailing family member adds a lot of stress to your plate. The first step to take is getting everything in order so that important items aren’t missed. Here are some steps to take to get a family member’s finances in order before his or her dementia progresses.
Organize for Success
A full accounting of your loved one’s finances is the first place to get you started on the road to helping them. At some point, you’re going to need to take over completely. You need to understand where the money’s being spent so that you can maintain your loved one’s lifestyle. Obtain at least a year’s worth of bank records and the bills that are coming in on a regular basis. This will allow you to establish what needs to be paid. Make this into a conversation with your family member, as he or she should not be left out of these important matters regarding the future. You should also research and talk with a doctor about the stages of mental capacity and what your loved one is and isn’t capable of handling right now.
Set Up Autopay
Establishing an autopay system with your loved one’s bank lets you focus on bills that aren’t routine in nature. You won’t have to worry about paying utility bills and maintaining these services for your loved one. Insurance premiums and other routine costs can be auto-deducted so that you can focus on quality of care issues instead of having to collect the mail and spend your time dealing with these items. This will also make things easier on your loved one so that he or she can still make choices about certain financial issues.
Establish Standard of Care
As the dementia progresses, you’ll need to know what standard of care your family member would like to maintain. The best way to handle these types of situations is to visit with a living trust attorney. Everything can be laid out in writing so that there aren’t any questions about what your family member would like done should that particular situation arise. It also helps you to determine if in-home care or assisted living is the best option for the future.
Discuss Miscellaneous Items
There will be financial matters that arise that are outside of the norm. Having the conversation early with your loved one gives you a better idea about how to handle it later when he or she might not be able to make difficult choices for themselves. Medical bills are the most common type of expense to fall into this category. Keeping track of past medical appointments helps to resolve any discrepancies that may exist for procedures that aren’t covered by insurance. Budget funds in a savings account to help you pay off these unexpected costs.
Handling the finances of your family member can be challenging. It is difficult to see a loved one slowly lose mental capacity. Remember to include your loved one in the conversation early on, so that the choices he or she makes when mentally able can determine the level of care later. It is extremely unhelpful to rush in and take control of everything without any input from your loved one, even if his or her mental state has deteriorated. Remember to be compassionate and respectful of your loved one’s autonomy up until the end. You can still understand where his or her ability to make financial choices is limited even as you show love and listen. Use these tips to help you organize your family member’s finances in the most effective and efficient manner.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, NM. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. She recommends getting a living trust attorney for your loved one’s needs.