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Individuals suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s are especially susceptible to scammers and other criminals. On an annual basis, suffering seniors lose approximately $36.5 billion due to financial abuse.

Fortunately, there are things one can do to avoid such risks – but first and foremost, it is crucial to understand the challenges that come along with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Special cognitive challenges

Dementia is a milder cognitive impairment when compared to the more advanced disorder, Alzheimer’s. Individuals with dementia are at-risk for Alzheimer’s. The longer Alzheimer’s progresses, the more debilitating it can become.

Cognitive challenges for someone with dementia may include:

  • Difficulty speaking and/or understanding language
  • Mental confusion
  • Short-term memory decline
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Trouble following a storyline or directions
  • Declining social skills

Cognitive challenges for someone with Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Difficulty speaking and/or understanding language
  • Loss of common sense knowledge
  • Long- and short-term memory decline
  • Forgetting the names and relations to close family members
  • Inability to create new memories
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mental confusion
  • Trouble with performing basic math (e.g., simple addition)
  • Inability to recognize simple objects’ names and functions (e.g., shoe, computer, bread)
  • Disorientation
  • Delusion

Common sense protections

If one is at-risk for a cognitive disorder, has dementia, or is suffering from an early stage of Alzheimer’s, there are ways one can protect themselves.

Besides the sufferer attempting to alleviate the severity of their dementia or Alzheimer’s through partaking in cognition-building activities to stimulate the brain (e.g., jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument), getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, engaging in physical activity, and reducing long-term stress, there are things one can do to ensure their loved one’s declining cognition does not land them in a situation such as financial abuse.

Family or friends should consider: doing research on cognitive disorders, joining a support group alongside the sufferer (online or in-person), getting in contact with the National Alzheimer’s Association for more information, scheduling a doctor’s appointment for the sufferer, and finding a trusted individual or team to help care for the sufferer when necessary.

It’s important to keep in mind that individuals with cognitive decline may forget to pay their bills, happily lend large sums of cash to ill-intentioned individuals, or spend more money than usual without regard for other expenses they may have. Considering the latter, finding the right person to help the sufferer is key to ensuring they will not be scammed or have their money stolen from their bank account. In many cases, individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s may not even be aware that they are being financially abused; this is why they are specifically targeted.

Legal protections

Fortunately, there are also legal protections at hand for those suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive conditions – both before and after financial abuse occurs.

It is highly recommended that power of attorney is put in place as soon as a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. With a power of attorney in place, you or another trusted individual can be put in financial responsibility of the sufferer to ensure their funds do no suspiciously go missing. Someone trustworthy should be put on all bank and financial accounts.

To help prevent the issue of scammers – and to assist your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia – it would also be wise to set up direct deposit and automatic bill pay.

Also, many attorneys (including Idaho Estate Planning) advise individuals going through a major life change revise their wills and trusts. Legal review will be necessary for individuals suffering from a cognitive disorder.

Be sure to keep track of your loved one’s important personal information, data, and institutions whom they are associated with. As soon as anything odd appears on financial statements or the like, be sure to legally report it.

What we can do to help

At Idaho Estate Planning, we know the extra layer of complexity dementia or Alzheimer’s can add to a family situation. Contact our office today for your free Discover/Right Fit MeetingTM. We’ll assist you in creating a plan for protecting your loved one regardless of their health status.