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Dr Dexter Penn is a dementia doctor who’s determined to make money matters easier for vulnerable older people and their families.

Peter had been admitted to hospital after a fall but was now ready to be discharge into the care of a nursing home. Then someone close to him stole some money. The theft was reported to the police and, whilst investigations were carried out, John’s bank accounts were frozen…for over three months.

This had a cataclysmic effect on John’s life. ‘He ended up spending those three months stuck in hospital,’ Dr Dexter Penn recalls. ‘The care home refused to take him until they were satisfied he had adequate funds to pay for his care, but his family couldn’t prove this because the bank wouldn’t allow them to view his bank statements. The local authority refused to cover the care costs in the interim, and every other avenue we went down to find him a more appropriate place to stay, failed,’ Dexter recalls.

‘It was all very upsetting for Peter who became convinced he was being detained against his will. The whole situation seemed so unfair.’

This was one of the many frustrating scenarios that Dexter, a doctor and research fellow at the UCL Dementia Research Centre, came up against whilst working on busy Geriatric wards. Over and over again he witnessed first- hand the stress and misery money matters could cause for patients and families, particularly those in the early stages of dementia who were still capable of handling their own affairs (without registering an LPA) but might need a little help.

‘The people who seem to have most difficult are those for whom an LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) isn’t yet necessary because they still have mental capacity, but for whom a little extra support could come in very useful and may even help prevent fraud.’

With this in mind, Dexter and his colleagues have designed a personal finance manager app called Kalgera (which means ‘good old age’ in Ancient Greek). The app allows anyone who feels they might like some support with money to nominate a person they trust to be their extra pair of eyes. Without sharing PINs or account numbers Kalgera allows users to give someone they trust permission to view insights into their spending and to receive alerts if things go wrong.

The Kalgera app uses new Open Banking regulations in a safe and secure way so that signs of scams or mistakes, such as double payments of bills, can be picked up and sorted out quickly by users. ‘For example, if the older person suddenly withdraws a lot of cash, an alert will be sent out to them and the trusted person they nominate, to trigger a conversation to double check they ‘…meant to take out that £500.’

‘The nominated person won’t be able to take money out of the account or make changes to it, but they will be able to see what’s going on and be alerted of any unusual activity.’

The concept has won innovation awards from UCL and NHS England and Dexter hopes that the app, which is in the final stages of design, will be available to use early next year. ‘I am constantly struck by how much time and energy families spend trying to help older relatives look after their money, I really hope this app will help everyone concerned to reclaim their peace of mind,’ he adds.

As for Peter, a massive amount of time and money could have been saved if his family had been able to use an app like Kalgera to access his bank statements and prove he had the funds to pay for his care. Instead, John became an unwilling contributor to the NHS annual bed-blocking bill, which currently stands at an eye-watering £820m a year.

Would YOU like to test the Kalgara app?
The team is looking for volunteers to get involved with testing. For more information go to: https://www.kalgera.com/

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