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Does your loved one with dementia regularly seem to lose money? Or does money seem to ‘disappear’ faster than it should? Here’s a few ways to deal with some of the most common money issues 

You know they had a wad of cash in their wallet yesterday, but today they’ve only got a few coins left. So where did that money go and what can you do? The person you care about might get defensive if you ask them about it, or they may accuse you –  or someone else – of stealing it, which could be very embarrassing and upsetting.

But you can’t sit back and watch their hard-earned money disappear….Can you?

If this scenario sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. Money management skills are often amongst the first to go when a person has dementia, resulting in confusion and tension amongst family members. And it’s often the small stuff that causes most pain. For while many families prepare for the big issues such as updating a Will or setting up a Power of Attorney, it’s often more day-to-day money matters that catch them off guard, and can lead to untold stress.

Here’s some of the issues you might come up against – and how to deal with them.

Purse/wallet/cash regularly disappears

Regularly losing a wallet or purse, or the money inside it, is sadly very common and can cause the person with dementia much anxiety, particularly if they are prone to paranoia or suspicious thoughts. Having trouble counting change, or being able to recognise different coins and notes can also become more and more difficult.

The need for cash

For many older people, cash is still king. Having some money in their purse, pocket or wallet can help them feel calm, in control and independent. This could be why losing their money – or forgetting where they left it – can feel so distressing. No amount of kindly reassurance along the lines of, ‘never mind, it’s only money,’ will help.

Two tips for handling cash

1. Keep at least one spare purse or wallet in a safe place so that you or the person you care about can  ‘find it’ if the other one goes missing. But make sure it also contains money!

2. Try to make sure the amount of money they have in the purse is quite small but includes plenty coins so that it feels more substantial.

Using cards instead?

More and more people are using contactless cards instead of cash to pay for even small items. Contactless cards offer some advantages for people with dementia; they’re easy to use and you don’t need to remember a pin number. But they’re also easy to lose…and if their card falls into the wrong hands someone else could quickly start spending their money.

You could also consider trying a pre-paid card. These look exactly the same as a credit or debit card, but you load them with your chosen amount of money, which is the maximum amount you can spend. So if you put £20 on the card, the person you care for can only spend £20. Some pre-paid cards charge an application fee or a small monthly fee so it’s worth shopping around.

Withdrawing large amounts of money from the bank

Many people assume that if they have Power of Attorney their loved one won’t be able to do this. Unfortunately, complex banking rules (which can differ widely) and counter staff who don’t fully understand how Power of Attorney works, can sometimes result in a person with dementia being able to continue withdrawing money from their bank.

If you’re concerned about this, check with your loved one’s bank, and if you think they aren’t  following correct procedure, make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Limit the need for cash

Make sure all your loved one’s bills are paid by direct debit. Pensions, other income and benefits can also be paid directly into a bank account. Limiting the need for cash reduces the chances of it going missing, and makes them less vulnerable to doorstep fraudsters or burglars. And providing they always have cash to hand when necessary – whether to give pocket money to a grandchild, buy a packet of biscuits from the corner shop, or a birthday card for a friend – it doesn’t need to affect their quality of life.