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Dementia: Couples and Money

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Alzheimer’s is a debilitating illness that afflicts millions of Americans. As the population of seniors continues to grow, so too will the numbers of people with one of the seven types of dementia.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.2 million American currently have the illness, which is 11% of people ages 65 and older.  There is an additional 200,000 people who have younger-onset dementia.

The numbers get scarier as the age increases. One third of the population ages 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.

There are many facets of the illness families have to cope with, but here we are going to talk about one: financial. Not only do you have to worry about the cost of future care, but you need to recognize the signs early on that a person with dementia should no longer be in charge of the family’s finances.

How Finances Should Work
Ideally, both people in a relationship should be aware of all money matters and investments, regardless of dementia. This is just sound financial planning. Gone are the days when the husband was the breadwinner and was in charge of all financial decision. Here is the information every couple should know:


  • Checking account and savings account numbers
  • All investment information including stock or certificates
  • Any 401K, IRAs or pensions
  • When bills need to be paid
  • Gathering tax information
  • Insurance policies including health, car, life, homeowner’s, etc.
  • Social Security information


  • Location of all deeds, mortgages, car titles
  • Wills & living wills
  • Legal power of attorney
  • Medical power of attorney

It is important that you get financial and care plans in place before the illness progresses. Depending on the size of your estate, you may want to get a financial planner or estate planner involved to protect your assets in the future and give you both a sense of security. Every state has different laws when it comes to financial and legal matters, so it is best to be informed about certain consequences. If you can’t afford an attorney, contact the Alzheimer’s Association for a list of pro bono attorneys in your area.

When Is Late Too Late?
An alarming study was conducted by economists Joanne W. Hsu of the Federal Reserve Board and Robert Willis of the University of Michigan. They studied Americans over 50 and their spouses between 1998 through 2008. What they found was that 80% of spouses who were already in the throes of dementia were still managing the family’s finances.

This could have life-altering consequences for some couples. The person with dementia could be making serious mistakes without even knowing it. And if you wait too long for the person with cognitive impairment to explain everything, he/she may lack the awareness to explain everything correctly.

Additionally, the study found that people with dementia could be more susceptible to fraud. Older victims of financial fraud already lose $2.9 billion annually, according to a 2011 MetLife study.

This could result in squandering money you don’t have and putting your financial future at risk.

Therefore to protect everyone from financial disaster, here are 5 suggestions by Forbes magazine:

  • Both people in a relationship should know everything that needs to be known about finances.
  • Each couple should have a financial power of attorney drawn up giving each other decision making power in the event of an unexpected injury or illness. At a minimum, name a proxy or a trusted adviser.
  • If you notice your spouse starting to slip from dementia, assume responsibility for the finances. At first he/she may be opposed and hurt, but it’s important to secure your future.
  • Develop a plan – emotionally, financially and physically so every one’s wishes are known.

If you need help with dementia care, FirstLight Home Care provides in-home dementia care to help sufferers and their family cope with the anxiety, depression, confusion and isolation the illness often brings.

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