We discover the top tips and advice on managing someone’s money when they have dementia from financial adviser and Unforgettable expert panel member Vivien Zarucki.

Who are you?

My name is Vivien Zarucki. People say that looking after someone else’s finances can be a full-time job and that’s exactly what I did for nearly twenty years, working as a financial adviser. As a chartered financial planner and accredited member of the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA), I specialised in working with elderly clients and complex cases involving powers of attorney and trusts.

What expertise can you bring to the Unforgettable panel?

I retired from financial planning earlier this year, but continue to be involved in helping people who are affected by caring for others and, in particular, caring for someone living with dementia. I volunteer with Alzheimer’s Society and as a Dementia Friends Champion, hold regular information sessions to help people understand some aspects of what it is like to live with dementia and make local communities more dementia friendly places to live.

I understand first-hand how difficult it can be to handle someone else’s finances and how even getting the basics sorted out can seem impossible. Going from one crisis to the next without sufficient time to think things through and not getting the information you need when you need it are concerns that I have heard so many times. With timely and common sense help and advice, it is possible to bring some order to looking after finances and make tasks easier so that time is spent focusing on the person with dementia rather than wading through paperwork.

Do you have a personal interest in dementia?

Whilst working as a financial adviser, my mother developed vascular dementia following a series of strokes. Given the area I worked in, I thought it should be straightforward for me to deal with my mum’s finances – how wrong I was! Frustration, delay, unnecessary complexity, it seemed like a test to see how many brick walls I could hit my head against before I gave up. Stubborn to the end, I succeeded in what I needed to do but I am aware that so many people aren’t as persistent as I am and passing this knowledge on is how I came to be involved with unforgettable.

If a family carer asked you for advice on what could help improve the quality of life for their mother or father who has just been diagnosed with dementia, what would you say?

Contact organisations such as Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and public bodies such as your local council’s social work department. Although it may well be the first time that you have had to manage a situation like this, you won’t be the first person to have done it and these organisations may well be able to draw on a wealth of knowledge and experience, which will save you a good deal of time and effort. Even if they can’t help directly, they may well be able to signpost to a person or organisation that can.

What would your advice be for what they should do now and how they can best prepare for the journey ahead?

Get a plan and get a timetable. With some things, and this is the case with finances, you are up against the clock. The earlier you understand the issues that are time critical, the more options and choices you give yourself and the person you are caring for. It’s very easy to put things off to tomorrow, but as time goes on the ability to choose certain routes falls away.

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