Dementia and credit cards, creating a plan of attack.
When a parent or loved one gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, you know that there’s a series of hard conversations to be had. Among them are discussions about medical safety, home safety, conversations about driving safely, and financial safety and security. If you’re going to have multiple conversations, perhaps one of the most straightforward places to start is with their credit cards. If you know that a change from the current routine is in order, it’s always better to start making those changes sooner than later.
Having the conversation:
Depending on your relationship with your parents, having these conversations can be a hard process. Depending on your family dynamic, it might be helpful to have it one-on-one, or in a more formal family meeting. Some people break the ice by bringing up the example of a friend or something you heard about on the news. Throughout the conversation, you’ll want to stay patient, compassionate, and try to listen more than you speak. The initial goal should be to get your parent to agree that, now that they’ve been diagnosed, it may be helpful for you to assist them in managing their finances as they age.
Three things to accomplish:
The first thing to do is limit the number of credit cards that that they carrying. Have a discussion about the various cards in their purse or wallet, and try to negotiate down to just one or two (ideally one credit card and one debit card). This will limit future confusion, and protect against losing cards because you’ll always know exactly how many cards to look for. Additionally, if a card does get lost or stolen, you’ll have fewer calls to make.
Limit the number of things that need to be paid by cards, and keep them current. Put any recurring bills on a bill-pay service. In some cases, you may also want to lower the credit limits so that they can’t accidentally rack up a large debt. In order to prevent any surprises in the bank account, make sure that the credit card is paid off monthly. This will also prevent expensive re-payments on credit card debt.
Finally, keep a close eye on bank and credit card activity. The fastest way to do this is for them to give you access to their online banking accounts, then you can monitor bank and credit card activity. You should look at least weekly for any abnormal or recurring purchases that might be signs of fraud, scams, or just spending mishaps. Checking frequently will help you identify any issues quickly, and then you can start the process of taking care of them.
If you find these steps aren’t enough, take a look at the True Link Card service, which is a prepaid, reloadable debit card designed for older adults. The service includes our Spending Monitor that allows you to customize which types of purchases to limit or block, and mobile alerts that instantly help let you know what’s happening when it’s happening.