People with dementia are being cheated out of at least £100 million, the Alzheimer’s Society revealed.
The charity estimates that up to 112,500 (15 per cent) people with dementia have been victims of financial abuse such as cold calling, scam mail, or mis-selling. Its new report ‘Short changed: Protecting people with dementia from financial abuse’, today (Wednesday, 14 December 2011) calls for people with the condition to be better protected. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/shortchanged for more information
Financial expert Martin Lewis is now joining Alzheimer’s Society in calling on Trading Standards and banks to help put a stop to this by appointing dementia champions. These champions would help increase awareness about the condition, and spearhead better working with other local organisations to ensure people are protected. The charity also wants local authorities to safeguard funding for Trading Standards in a climate of cuts.
‘Short changed’ reveals that 62 per cent of carers said the person they care for had been approached by cold callers or salespeople on their doorstep, while 70 per cent were regularly targeted by telephone cold callers. This resulted in people being cheated out of thousands of pounds and suffering stress, exhaustion and frustration.
Founder of Moneysavingexpert, Martin Lewis, who wrote the report foreword to ‘Short changed’, said:
‘The scale of this problem is huge. It’s deplorable that people are prepared to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable in our society. What’s more, the true amount of money lost is likely to be much higher as financial abuse often goes unreported. Society must help protect people with dementia – something must be done.’
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘We are merely scratching the surface of the frightening hidden depths of financial abuse. Too often con artists are dealing another body blow to people who already face high care costs and a society that fails to understand their needs. It’s only by working together with banks, local authorities, and of course the general public that we can turn this around and start the New Year with new hope.’
Steve Pye, whose 84-year-old father Stan has dementia and was scammed out of over £1,000, said:
‘It’s not just about being out of pocket. Because of these con artists, my dad now finds it very difficult to trust people. It’s also incredibly stressful for the family. When you’re caring for someone with dementia, life is tough enough without having to write letter after letter trying to get back money which is rightfully yours. I’m at the end of my tether trying to resolve the problem and the emotional strain is massive.’
‘Short changed’ also looked at the problems people with dementia can face when managing their money. 76 per cent of people had trouble managing their money, with the technical nature of security and lack of dementia awareness in banks found to be major problems. People often felt uncomfortable talking about their finances, particularly with family. However, 77 per cent agreed it was important to make plans about how to manage their money in the future. Carers also spoke of the emotional barriers they faced when taking control of their loved one’s finances.
Alzheimer’s Society is developing a dementia awareness training programme which will be rolled out to organisations such as banks. The charity is also publishing five top tips for how to plan for the future. These are:
- Discuss money management with your family - Money can be a difficult subject to talk about but it’s important you plan how you want your finances to be managed if you became unable to look after them yourself.
- Set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA) – This enables a person with dementia to choose someone they trust to make decisions on their behalf about things such as paying bills and collecting income once they are no longer able to take those decisions. However, LPAs need to be set up while a person with dementia still has capacity.
- Speak to the local bank manager – People with dementia and their carers should talk to their bank manager as soon after a diagnosis as possible. The discussion can look at extra support that may be available as their condition progresses and ways of managing money, eg using a signature card instead of a PIN number.
- Stop junk mail and unwanted telephone calls – There are a number of ways to do this, such as signing up to the Mailing Preference Service at mpsonline.org.uk and joining the Telephone Preference Service register.
- Put a ‘no cold callers’ sign on the door - These can be obtained from the local trading standards department. Six of the major energy suppliers will not knock on doors which have a ‘no door to door salesman’ sticker/sign on them.
The survey used for this report is the largest ever carried out on this subject. It involved 104 carers and 47 people with dementia. Focus groups and interviews with nursing staff, social workers and adult safeguarding professionals were also carried out.
Find out more by visiting alzheimers.org.uk/shortchanged