Dementia, Help with Financial Management, and Well-Being

WP#2017-11

Abstract

Earlier research indicated that the vast majority of retirees with dementia do not use the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program, despite the fact that many have lost the capacity to manage their own finances. However, that research also indicated that most retirees with dementia do have access to informal caregivers who could assist them (e.g., a resident adult child or non-impaired spouse), but the research did not examine whether those individuals provided assistance specifically with financial management. This paper uses the National Health and Aging Trends Study to determine whether beneficiaries with dementia receive help from their informal caregivers in managing their finances. The paper also examines the financial well-being of those with assistance compared to those without assistance.

This paper found that:

  • Over 85 percent of individuals with dementia receive informal help with simple banking matters like paying bills, as well as complex matters like managing retirement accounts.
  • Those with dementia who receive help are indistinguishable from those without dementia in terms of any difficulties they experience paying for utilities, rent, medicine, and food.
  • The minority of adults who have dementia but do not receive help managing their money are more likely to experience difficulty paying for necessities.
  • The apparent benefits of informal help is robust to controls for socioeconomic factors like race, education, and income.

 
The policy implications of this paper are:

  • One reason the Representative Payee Program may be used infrequently by those with dementia is that they have informal sources of assistance with their finances.
  • Because that assistance is generally successful in preventing financial distress, families may feel the need to utilize the program only as a last resort.