While likely under-reported, the National Council on Aging estimates elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. Older American’s that have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.
After caring for two parents with dementia, I remind myself how much the checkbook meant to my mother. She had always managed the household finances and pointing out to her that she was failing to manage the finances was something that needed to be left unsaid. If you are concerned, first work with the person to support their efforts before suggesting they hand over the checkbook and finances. Some easy ways to help may be:
- Create a monthly schedule of bills and maintenance due dates
- Log in to the banking websites and credit card sites to monitor spending and confirm no fraudulent or suspicious transactions and fill in the bill pay gaps
- Set up a checking account they can use that has a minimal balance to keep in their purse or wallet for writing checks and use a different account for bill pay needs
My mother kept losing her purse that included her checkbook. So dealing with that was very time consuming. My Dad recognized this and took me to the bank to set up a new checking account for my Mom. We funded it as she needed money but no longer had to worry that the account that received their retirement funds and paid for the mortgage was at risk. We automated many of the home bills (mortgage, utilities) and I would monitor the spending behind the scenes.
Utimately, I wanted to help but not be invasive or diminish my parent’s ability to manage their finances.
Some other tools to consider include:
- Get a tile and insert it into the wallet so you can easily find it if it get’s misplaced. You can use their online portal to track it’s location.
- Set up a TrueLink card. It is basically a pre-funded credit card where you can set up limits on how much can be charged as well as products and services that it won’t fund. There is a fee for it, but the small expense is worth the money it will most likely save in potential losses.
If you have a variety of personal care assistants coming into the home, or your loved one is in a community, I hope you will consider some of these options.
I have worked with families both at home and living in communities that have been a victim of caregiver exploitation. One got my client to write her a small check, one purchased some face cream for my client and asked her for repayment of $85, and another apparently kept asking for gas money. Most agencies and communities require their caregivers agree to never accept money or gifts from clients. Should a client give them money, it needs to be reported to the community or agency. In one month, I had to report three caregivers for violating this condition of employment. Sadly, I know they will just turn up at another agency.
Managing the finances for many may be one of the few remaining freedoms that offer a sense of control. Some are giving up car keys, volunteer activities they love, hobbies they can no longer maintain and the checkbook can offer an empowered sense of self.
If you have been diagnosed, or are a family member and unable to do this for your loved one, you can contact a Daily Money Manager who can fill this roll.
With billions at risk, take some time to ensure someone is minding the finances. I hope these options help you and your loved ones. Suggested.