How to Prevent Alzheimer’s from Destroying your Family’s Financial Future
Alzheimer’s disease, and the demands it places on a caregiver’s time and energy, can devastate a family’s emotional resources. It can devastate the family’s bank account, too.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million Americans are living with it, and one in eight older Americans is afflicted with the progressive, incurable disease. The association says that the first step when a diagnosis is made is to assess the affected individual’s assets: Social Security and pensions, bank accounts and IRAs, real estate and life insurance policies.
When you are no longer able to manage your finances, a relative or other trusted individual should have durable power of attorney to make sure you are properly cared for.
The Alzheimer’s association says (http://tinyurl.com/965uhtl) your caregiver can become a “representative payee” with access to your benefit checks. This option is available from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Railroad Retirement Board, the group says.
Another option is a joint bank account for you and your caregiver, although this might complicate applying for Medicaid or other benefits. You should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law early on to help make the right decision.
Finally, setting up a living trust might be best, whether revocable or irrevocable. Only irrevocable trusts, the Alzheimer’s Association says, protects your assets in case he needs long-term care.
Loss of Control
In many cases, people have spent a lifetime managing their finances, and giving up that control can be the hardest thing to do. A Reuters story (http://tinyurl.com/9fgd8ae) gives tips on how family members can deal with elderly relatives and their finances.
Basically, they all boil down to being diplomatic and acting before it’s too late to have any legal say in the financial well-being of an affected family member.
In the case of investment accounts, the story says, use even more finesse because the stakes are higher.
In the case of an affected family member, you shouldn’t tell him that you don’t think he is capable of buying and selling responsibly, but rather “tell him you admire his long history of smart investing and would like to learn from” him. You should ask, the story says, to attend meetings with his investment advisor.
Ripe for the Picking
Alzheimer’s disease patients are often easy prey for scam artists – a cursory Internet search brings up dozens of such cases – and without sound financial and legal planning, you could fall victim, too. According to the Reuters story, more elderly people are ripped off by relatives than are scammed by professional advisors.