Cognitive Decline and Dementia in Older Americans
Cognitive decline and dementia make it difficult for older Americans to manage their own finances. This is particularly true because of the plethora of new banking technologies that make remembering passwords, complicated security codes, and pins more essential than ever before.
Alzheimer’s disease, which affects one in eight Americans over the age of 65, is the most common cause of dementia, a decline in memory and cognitive abilities that interferes with daily life. This decline also makes Alzheimer’s patients more susceptible to financial abuse and investment fraud. Millions of Americans, many with dementia, fall victim to financial fraud and abuse each year.
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Risk Factors for Financial Abuse
People with dementia are at increased risk for financial abuse due to:
- Difficulties judging risk;
- Difficulties understanding complex strategies;
- Solitary living environments;
- Reliance on professionals, friends, and family for many of life’s necessities
- Reduced ability to spot deceit;
- Declining ability to remember financial information; and
Declining ability to process visual information. Additionally, an increasing fear of poverty often leads those with dementia to fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes.
“The fact that dementia is a progressive condition has particular implications when it comes to managing money,” stated a December 2011 Alzheimer’s Society report titled “Short Changed: Protecting people with dementia from financial abuse.”
How You Can Help Your Loved One Avoid Financial Abuse
Talk to Your Loved Ones About Financial Abuse
Protecting your loved one from financial abuse starts with talking to them about their current financial status, their current mental status, and the reality of financial abuse. “The difficulty of discussing financial issues was one of the most common problems raised by professionals undertaking safeguarding work with people with dementia,” suggested the Alzheimer’s Society report guiding such discussions can help detect signs that someone is at risk.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Society report said the person they cared for had been approached or cold-called with unsolicited financial offers – an instant way scammers target their victims. Consider adding your loved one’s phone number to the National Do-Not-Call List so fewer unwanted calls come through and reduce their chance of falling prey. For information on what calls are covered and how to get on the list, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
More than three-fourths of people with dementia experience difficulties managing their money but strive as best they can. Even if you’re not taking full control yet, find out if they’d be okay with you checking for suspicious activity periodically – looking for unauthorized transactions large withdrawals or any other suspicious activity – monitoring statements both physical documents or online accounts at least monthly helps keep tabs on any unusual activity posthaste before scams snowball into something graver.
Report Any Problems
According To The National Center on Elder Abuse about five cases go unreported For every one reported (National Center Elder Abuse Website). While there isn’t a federal agency handling elder finance abuse you can -and should – still make reports asap locally state agencies (National Center Elder Abuse website) handle such matters promptly helping investigations run smoother faster.
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