Credit problems and identity issues can be difficult to guard against during the best of circumstances, but for someone with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease – a form of dementia that affects thinking, memory and behavior – preventing identity theft and maintaining good credit can seem impossible.
As many as 5.5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The number of Alzheimer’s victims is on track to triple by 2050, meaning up to 16 million Americans could be living with the disease.
For many individuals, money management problems such as unpaid or unopened bills, extraneous or unusual purchases and numerous ATM cash withdrawals are common financial symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia. . These types of smaller infractions could negatively affect an Alzheimer’s patient’s credit or make them easy targets for identity theft.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia both take a physical and emotional toll on every family they touch. Fortunately, there are a few ways to lessen or eliminate the financial risks associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Set up a living will
You can take legal steps to help prevent loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease from making devastating financial mistakes. Soon after a diagnosis, contact an attorney, advises Howard S. Krooks, former president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and partner with Elder Law Associates PA in southeast Florida. Krooks recommends acting on the following as soon as possible:
- Appoint a durable power of attorney (POA) for finances.
An individual has the authority to make financial decisions on another person’s behalf with a POA. However, a POA is created before a person becomes incapacitated and doesn’t involve the courts. Many times, people give their agent (the individual acting on their behalf) legal authority over finances, but ultimately, can grant their agent as much power as they wish. For example, the agent’s authority may be limited to filing taxes and that’s it. The decision to go with a POA may be dependent on how advanced the individual’s Alzheimer’s or dementia has progressed.
- Establish a revocable trust.
With a revocable trust, a family member or other trusted individual is put in charge of the assets of the person with Alzheimer’s. Since the trustee would manage the money, the person with Alzheimer’s disease would need to confer with the trustee before making large expenditures, says Krooks.