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Financial and administrative matters

Dealing with practical issues

"I find it difficult to handle money. I just can’t make sense of it. Fortunately, I can do all my shopping at the village shop where I have an account and my son sorts it all out for me at the end of the month. That way I can keep my independence." (Erik)

"Last week, we sorted out standing orders for the electricity, water and telephone bills. I will get most of the shopping in from now on and Rachael will just keep a little bit of cash on her for small purchases." (Sam)

For many people with dementia, money loses its symbolic meaning. Consequently, they may be less careful with it, lose it or give it away. At the other extreme, some people with dementia hoard or hide money. Due to memory problems, they may end up paying for goods or services more than once or not at all. To make matters worse, they are not always aware that they have a problem handling money. This can be dangerous in that it can make them vulnerable to abuse. Some people with dementia also give away goods, sometimes of financial or sentimental value to themselves or others. With regard to financial issues, they may be able to handle some transactions or parts of a transaction but not others. Typical transactions which may at some time prove problematic include the following:

  • Handling money (identifying coins/notes, counting money and paying in cash)
  • Withdrawing money (from a cash dispenser and over the counter)
  • Using cheques (writing and cashing a cheque, balancing a cheque book)
  • Using credit cards (understanding the principle and consequences of their use)
  • Understanding bills and statements of account
  • Paying bills on time and distinguishing bills from offers for goods or services
  • Managing loans and debts

It is advisable for people with dementia and carers to think about these potential problems as soon as possible and to try to find a solution. In some cases, the carer may be able to help directly, whereas in others, it may be advisable to seek outside help.

For the person with dementia

If you experience problems handling money:

  • Ask the cashier/shop assistant to help you by taking the relevant money out of your purse or wallet for you (presuming that you consider him/her to be trustworthy).
  • Take your time when making a payment.
  • Take someone with you to help or just to make sure you don’t make a mistake.
  • If you do go shopping alone, try to take just enough money to cover the estimated cost. Ask someone for advice if you’re not sure how much that should be.
  • Carry a small amount of money to cover taxi fares if you get lost or feel unwell.
  • Find a time to do your shopping when it is fairly quiet.
  • It might be preferable to get little bits of shopping in regularly.
  • Find out if there is a concession card available for public transport.1 If not, buy a weekly transport card to avoid having to deal with cash.
  • Avoid paying with a credit card as you may find it difficult to keep track of how much you are spending and accumulate debts without realising. Another problem with credit cards is that nowadays you usually need a PIN number and this can be easily forgotten.

General advice:

  • Arrange for monthly/regular bills to be paid by standing order or direct debit. That way, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to pay.
  • Consider granting a Power of Attorney to someone you trust.
  • Ask for help whenever you need it.
  • If you have a joint account, make sure that your partner can withdraw money without your signature.
  • Consider making a will so that you can decide what you want to happen to your money and possessions.

For the carer

  • Discuss the various issues with the person with dementia and try to find solutions together e.g. powers of attorney, standing orders, credit accounts at shops, limiting the amount of available cash, writing a will etc.
  • If you handle the money of the person with dementia, keep it separate from your own and keep receipts and a record of what you have received/spent in case you are asked to account for it (particularly if you are not related).
  • If you are unable to manage the finances of the person with dementia, you should both consider alternative solutions e.g. look into official guardianship measures, appoint a financial administrator etc.
  • If you are the partner of the person with dementia and have joint accounts, savings and debts, it will be necessary to ensure that you have full access to your accounts even when your partner no longer has capacity.
  • Avoid taking over completely if it is not necessary.



Last Updated: Friday 11 September 2009