Alzheimer's Caregiving

Legal and Financial Issues

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease involves planning for the future. This includes getting the person’s legal, health and financial affairs in order. It is important to make these arrangements while the person with Alzheimer’s can still understand and make important decisions.

Important Documents

Check to see that the person with Alzheimer’s has the following documents and that they are up to date.

These legal and financial arrangements will help when the person with Alzheimer’s disease can no longer make decisions about money or medical care. They can also help prevent serious problems such as financial abuse.

An attorney can help create the right legal documents. Samples of basic health planning documents can be downloaded from State government websites. Area Agency on Aging officials, State legal aid offices, and the State bar association may also provide legal advice or help.

Managing Money

People with Alzheimer’s often have problems managing money. As the disease gets worse, a person may try to hide financial problems to protect his or her independence. Or, the person may not realize that he or she is losing the ability to handle money matters. It is important for caregivers to check how well the person with Alzheimer’s is managing his or her finances.

In the beginning, people with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to perform basic tasks such as paying bills. They may have problems with more complicated tasks, such as balancing a checkbook and making investment decisions. As the disease gets worse, all money management skills decline, with the more complex skills disappearing first.

Possible signs that a person with Alzheimer’s is having a hard time with finances include trouble counting change or calculating a tip. You might find unpaid or unopened bills lying around the person’s home. You might notice lots of new purchases on a credit card bill or strange new merchandise.

How to Help

One way to help a person with Alzheimer’s manage money is to give him or her small amounts of cash to have on hand. Have the credit limit minimized on credit cards or cancel the cards. You can also tell the person that it is important for you to learn about finances, with his or her help. Be respectful and understanding, as many older adults are suspicious of attempts to take over their financial affairs

Beware of Scams

A person with Alzheimer’s may become the victim of financial abuse or "scams" by dishonest people. Scams can take many forms, such as get-rich-quick offers and phony home repairs.

Watch for someone borrowing money from the person with Alzheimer’s and not paying it back, giving away or selling the person's belongings without permission, or signing or cashing pension or Social Security checks without permission. A scammer might also use ATM or credit cards without permission or force the person to sign over property.

Signs of Possible Abuse

These are other signs that the person with Alzheimer’s has become the victim of a scam.

If you think the person may be a victim of a scam, contact your local police department, state consumer protection office, or Area Agency on Aging office.

For more information, see Planning Ahead – Health Legal and Financial Issues and Alzheimer’s Disease and Managing Finances. You can order a print copy of this booklet by calling 1-800-222-2225 or visiting www.nia.nih.gov/health.