Ask Paul: My husband has dementia and I'm exhausted protecting him from scammers
As an elderly full-time carer looking after an equally elderly partner with Parkinson's and dementia, the biggest worry I have is that he will be scammed.
My partner is stubborn and insists on having his Amex card. Today he gets an SMS on his mobile phone advising him that $637.85 has been charged to his Amex card. I verbally told him it is a scam and to delete the SMS.
He will not. He rings his bank.
Meanwhile, even though I have full power of attorney, I am helpless.
How do I protect my husband, apart from just cancelling all his cards?
I am old and exhausted, and these scammers are relentless in trying to steal our hard-earned savings. Every day they try something new. - Mrs Pillay
Mrs Pillay, this is a powerful message and I thank you for getting in touch. Your situation resonates deeply with me and I know it will for all Money readers.
How do we cope when either we, our partner or a family member, age and start to lose past money skills?
It is not only credit cards, but also self-managed super funds, shares, property, money at the bank and so on.
To be frank, the issue of credit cards such as Amex is not one I had considered.
The simple-sounding answer is, of course, to cancel it.
But this is not simple at all inside a relationship. Like a driving licence, control of our money gives us something we deeply value, our independence.
I had a couple of conversations with Amex, and like most credit card providers they have invested heavily in scam detection.
Amex tells me: "If an American Express card member becomes a victim of fraud, they won't be held liable for any fraudulent charges."
This is great, but does not really address the bigger issue. It may also be spending on items that you simply do not need.
As you have power of attorney, you could reduce the limit on the card. This would minimise financial risks.
Then we come to the tough part of your question. I have been pondering this for days.
How do you gently and lovingly help your partner by taking away things like credit cards? Here I found Dementia Australia very helpful. It has a significant amount of advice on its website, or you can phone 1800 100 500.
What is clear is that you are not alone: 472,000 Australians live with dementia and it impacts hugely on the 1.6 million people involved in their care.
I found the words written by carers such as yourself really valuable.
One lady is in exactly the same situation as you. Cancelling things like credit cards caused significant tension between her and her partner. Her solution was for the credit cards to be "lost".
I am not suggesting this, though it was a practical solution.
But I would suggest a discussion with Amex about a reduced limit.
If you would like, I can get back in touch with Amex and have one of their team call you. I am also keen on you having a conversation with Dementia Australia. With hundreds of thousands of people impacted by dementia, it deals with the issues you face, such as credit cards, every day.
Your question has caused me to become far more aware of the emotional complexity of gradually taking control of a loved one's affairs.
About 1 million people are predicted to be impacted by dementia in the coming years and personal finances are going to be a major issue. I am pretty sure there are no easy solutions, but in the next issue I'll write an article about dealing with money as we age.
My thoughts are with you, as are my best wishes.
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