I didn’t know it at the time, but getting my name on Mom’s checking account was only the beginning of helping her with finances. Money issues can be challenging as a general rule, but when your loved one is increasingly confused or forgetful and not realizing that they need help, finances can become a serious problem.
Fortunately, Mom was open to the idea of adding me to her checking account. She welcomed it. It wasn’t long, maybe six months after her diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment, that she realized she needed help. She knew it soon after writing a check for $2,000 to an unknown gardener for work she couldn’t remember. During a trip to the market, I watched her try to count out cash to pay for groceries and it made me sad.
Mom was still in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. I didn’t know that a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances was in my future, but the first step I knew I needed to take was to get some control of her daily money managing.
We headed over to Mom’s bank and sat with a person who pulled her financial records, got out the necessary forms for us to sign, then made sure her checking account was linked to my on-line banking so I could see where her money was going. We ordered new checks with both of our names printed on them. Because of these steps, I could help pay her bills and have access to the money she needed. It wasn’t total control. Yet.
At that time, small steps worked for us and she maintained some sense of control over her life. Over the next few months, I slowly eased in to removing her checks and credit cards from her purse. I kept some cash in her wallet. That seemed to keep her happy, but I have to say, I’m not sure I ever got used to taking full control of Mom’s finances.
Suggestion: When there is a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, experts agree that it is best if you start to deal with money issues in the very beginning. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and poor judgment about money can be one of the first clues there is a problem. Putting off a discussion won’t help and could easily create serious financial problems in the future.
You can take that suggestion to the bank!