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Jan 14, 201610:19 AMOpen Mic

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Helping customers as they age

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How many of us have witnessed a scenario like this: an elderly customer enters a bank or other business and seems just a bit confused or hesitant about why he or she is there and how to complete their intended transaction. Often, things work out, either on their own or with some gentle prompting by a perceptive employee. But that’s not always the case. As the U.S. population ages, elderly Americans are at an increasing risk of dementia and vulnerable to financial losses, abuse, or fraud.

According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, the most prevalent type of dementia, including 11% of those age 65 or older. An estimated 14% of Americans age 71 or older have some form of dementia, although many of them are unaware because it is under diagnosed, according to the report. In Wisconsin, an estimated 110,000 people age 65 or older have Alzheimer’s, with projections of 130,000 over the next 10 years.

Studies also show that those who experience cognitive decline as they age often make poor and/or risky financial decisions. What’s worse, those who make such decisions continue to feel confident in their ability to manage their finances well.

Some of the signs that a person might have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks such as handling money.
  • Confusion with time or place.
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing.

Although families are often aware of a loved one’s difficulties, they are not always in a position to step in to prevent financial losses, especially in day-to-day circumstances. In recent years, many banks and other businesses, as well as entire communities, have embraced training designated as Dementia Friendly to teach employees best practices in dealing with customers who have Alzheimer’s and other dementia.

Many of the financial problems that can occur when a person has dementia result from confusion or misplaced trust. For example, mail can pile up and become overwhelming, resulting in unpaid bills. Or the person might make contributions to charities or other organizations, thinking the solicitations they receive are actually invoices. Others are scammed by unscrupulous caregivers or others who provide services or repairs. Employees at banks and other businesses can be trained to recognize signs of potential fraud or financial abuse and step in to help the person, or contact a family member or trusted advisor.


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