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Care of the Aging Patient: From Evidence to Action
February 16, 2011

Finances in the Older Patient With Cognitive Impairment: “He Didn't Want Me to Take Over”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Geriatrics and Extended Care, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California, (Drs Widera and Sudore); Division of Geriatrics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco (Drs Widera, Steenpass, and Sudore); Department of Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham (Dr Marson).

JAMA. 2011;305(7):698-706. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.164

Financial capacity can be defined as the ability to independently manage one’s financial affairs in a manner consistent with personal self-interest. Financial capacity is essential for an individual to function independently in society; however, Alzheimer disease and other progressive dementias eventually lead to a complete loss of financial capacity. Many patients with cognitive impairment and their families seek guidance from their primary care clinician for help with financial impairment, yet most clinicians do not understand their role or know how to help. We review the prevalence and impact of diminished financial capacity in older adults with cognitive impairment. We also articulate the role of the primary care clinician, which includes (1) educating older adult patients and their families about the need for advance financial planning; (2) recognizing signs of possible impaired financial capacity; (3) assessing financial impairments in cognitively impaired adults; (4) recommending interventions to help patients maintain financial independence; and (5) knowing when and to whom to make medical and legal referrals. Clearly delineating the clinician's role regarding identification of financial impairment could establish for patients and families effective financial protections and limit the economic, psychological, and legal hardships of financial incapacity on patients with dementia and their families.

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