Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, June 6, 2019

By Mark McGahee

Alzheimer’s is one of our nation’s costliest diseases. Sadly, afflicted individuals without adequate long-term care insurance frequently lose most, if not all, of their financial assets.

It also takes a toll on their families and friends. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, family members and unpaid caregivers provided 18.4 billion hours of care, valued at $232 billion, to individuals suffering with dementia.

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But even dementia’s beginning stages and mild cognitive impairment experienced by healthy seniors can put personal wealth at risk. That’s why it’s important to begin having conversations about your aging family member’s finances well before you see signs of mental decline. Obviously, this has to be done with great sensitivity and respect. Make sure they know you don’t want to take control, but you would like to ensure they are protected and their wishes honored in the years to come.

During ongoing dialogs, try to learn what you’ll need to know if it becomes necessary to manage their finances: the names and contact information of their financial planner, accountant and attorney; financial records and where they are kept; their monthly income and the sources; insurance policies; the location of financial accounts; regular bills and how they are paid; and log-in information for online accounts.

Suggest meeting jointly with their financial adviser and/or other family members. Gain an understanding of their priorities. Ask which assets are most important to them, which causes they want to support and whether their will is up-to-date.

Propose having legal documents created that will allow you or another family member to make decisions if your loved one becomes unable to. This can include a health care power of attorney or a more limited living will, either a limited or durable power of attorney for finances, an authorization to disclose account information and a form authorizing a financial institution to contact you if concerns arise about their ability to manage finances. Not having these documents when they’re needed can make helping your elderly relative considerably more difficult. For example, without a power of attorney, you may need to go to court to attain guardianship of your family member to access accounts on their behalf.

A financial adviser can provide more information on protecting your loved one or help you create a plan to care for them.


Mark McGahee can be reached at 539-9465 or