Should you take over Mom's checkbook?
Money matters are often intensely private. And no one wants to infringe on a family member's independence. Yet it is through (sometimes expensive) financial mishaps that you may learn of changes in your parent's memory and thinking.
Signs of a problem
Diseases that affect memory also tend to impair arithmetic skills and reasoning. That's why money trouble can suggest the onset of dementia. Be alert for the following changes:
Difficulty counting change or balancing a checkbook
Frequent late payment of bills
Confusion about banking transactions
Unusual or repetitive purchases
Accusations that others are stealing from them
Investing in sweepstakes or other "get rich quick" schemes
Take action If you notice a problem, ask the doctor to begin screening for dementia. But don't wait to see if the symptoms progress before taking action.
Offer to help in a way that saves face. For example, "Gosh, it looks like the utility bill is overdue. You've got so many other things to do. You deserve to take a break. There are some easy ways to take some of these chores off your plate."
If your relative is agreeable to it, a number of safeguards are available. For example:
Set up auto deposit of Social Security and other retirement income
Arrange for overdraft protection at the bank
Initiate auto payment of bills and/or third-party notification if a bill is not paid
Hire a licensed and insured bill payer
Consider a joint bank account (with online access for you)
If your relative refuses help or is fiercely secretive, you may want to
consult with his or her doctor. A doctor's tests or stated clinical opinion may persuade your family member to accept assistance.
consult with a lawyer. If your relative is dangerously undermining his or her financial well-being, guardianship may be necessary.
Worried about financial mishaps?
We at Options for Aging often observe that money matters are the first inkling that there may be a serious memory problem. As the North Shore and Chicago experts in family caregiving, we know how sensitive these issues can be. Give us a call at 847-868-1445. Let's start the conversation.