Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It can affect the areas of the brain responsible for reasoning, comprehension, memory, and judgment.

The disease can start slowly in some people, causing mild memory loss or forgetfulness. But over time, it can worsen. A person with Alzheimer’s disease might start forgetting significant parts of their day or how to manage daily tasks.

This can include how to manage money, pay bills, or make sound financial decisions.

If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to be able to recognize signs of money problems to prevent mismanagement of funds and financial exploitation.

Living with Alzheimer’s disease can present a range of challenges, and one often-overlooked area is personal finance. A 2021 study noted that a decline in financial management is among the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, changes in memory, decision making, and ability to think can make it difficult to handle money effectively.

Unpaid bills or neglected financial responsibilities

A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may forget to pay bills, which may result in late fees, overdue notices, and disruption of utility services. Additionally, they might seem confused when talking about money matters.

Excessive spending

You may notice impulsive purchases or excessive spending on unnecessary items. This can lead to credit card debt or insufficient funds to pay bills. This behavior is often due to impaired judgment.

Misplacing financial items

The person may lose their wallet, credit cards, or important documents such as bank statements.

Difficulty managing basic financial tasks

Since Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory and reasoning, performing financial tasks can become harder. You may notice that they have trouble with basic math, understanding bank statements, or managing a checkbook.

Unusual generosity

Some people with Alzheimer’s disease become uncharacteristically generous and give away money or possessions without considering the consequences. They may also fall victim to scams or make poor financial decisions due to declining critical thinking skills.

Loss of money

Another sign is the loss of money. You may notice unusual charges on their bank statements, ATM withdrawals, or money disappearing from their accounts. They may be unable to explain these transactions due to memory loss or confusion.

If you notice signs of money problems, there are steps you can take to help.

For example, if the person is having trouble paying pay bills or is starting to neglect other financial responsibilities, you can offer practical help such as:

  • setting up automatic bill payments
  • requesting electronic statements
  • creating due date reminders

Excessive spending and impulsive purchases can also be a concern. You may be able to help prevent this by closely monitoring their financial transactions, including regularly reviewing bank statements and credit card bills for unusual activity.

Also, you might discuss budgeting strategies, establish spending limits, or even offer to manage financial accounts jointly if needed. For example, if you notice an increase in online purchases, you might set up a separate account with a limited amount of money available for online shopping. Or you can reduce the spending limit on credit cards.

This allows the person to maintain some financial independence while protecting their financial health.

Other ways to help them feel more financially independent include:

  • creating a system to keep financial items secure and easily accessible (maybe by designating specific places for wallets and credit cards and using sticky notes as a reminder)
  • providing simplified instructions for activities such as budgeting and paying bills
  • using large-print checkbooks or creating a visual budgeting chart to track expenses
  • using apps or device reminders to assist with bill payments, appointments, and medication schedules
  • reinforcing the importance of not sharing sensitive financial details with strangers
  • discussing their future care wishes as soon as they receive a diagnosis

Financial abuse occurs when someone takes advantage of a person’s money or property for their own benefit.

This can happen when a caregiver, family member, or acquaintance tricks the person, steals from them, or forces them to give away their money or belongings. It’s a harmful act that can leave the person without the resources they need to live comfortably.

To avoid financial abuse, regularly discuss financial matters with the person to ensure that they understand the importance of protecting their assets. Encourage them to seek advice from you or a trusted professional before making significant financial decisions.

Also, having a living will and designating a power of attorney or trusted person to help manage their finances can be helpful. This person will have their best interests at heart and can act responsibly. They can also keep a close eye on financial transactions, review bank statements, and monitor any changes.

Educating yourself and your loved ones about common scams targeting older adults is crucial. Teach them to be cautious about sharing personal and financial information, especially over the phone or online.

The expenses associated with Alzheimer’s disease can add up quickly. Here are a few resources to assist with managing costs and protecting the finances of someone with this disease:

  • Medicare is a federal health insurance program for individuals ages 65 and older, and Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage for low income people.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association offers a free online program to educate caregivers on the cost of care, managing expenses, avoiding financial abuse, and other topics.
  • The National Adult Protective Services Association focuses on preventing elder abuse, including financial exploitation.
  • The National Center on Elder Abuse provides resources and advice for families, professionals, and advocates, including educational materials to help prevent elder abuse.
  • The Eldercare Locator offers a nationwide directory of local resources and services for older adults and their families.
  • You can find information on common scams, tips for prevention, and guidance on reporting fraudulent activities by visiting the Federal Trade Commission website.
  • If the person you’re caring for is a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may cover healthcare, respite care, caregiver support, and adult day care programs.
  • The VA also offers an Aid and Attendance program and Housebound allowance to veterans and their surviving spouses to assist with in-home care services and supervision.
  • State Veterans Homes are long-term care facilities providing nursing home care to eligible veterans.
  • Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit organization that offers home repair and modification services for low income people, including those with disabilities or medical conditions.

Other resources for financial assistance include:

Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging and overwhelming for the person living with the condition and their loved ones. But assistance is available for any support you need, from finding ways to manage the costs of care to safeguarding their personal finances.

Remember that you’re not alone. If you’re in need of immediate assistance, you can call the Alzheimer’s Association helpline at 800-272-3900. They offer free, confidential help to people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers and family.