Dementia Care: Understanding the Impact.

5 minutes
hero image

Helping Australians living with dementia remain financially independent for as long as possible, and be less vulnerable to financial abuse, is important. Planning ahead, as early as possible, and whilst you are deemed competent from a legal perspective, will help you and your loved ones protect your money and prepare for the future.

Understanding dementia and being prepared to manage your money.

Dementia is one of the most common yet misunderstood conditions facing the country. It can affect people of all walks of life and ages. According to Dementia Australia, dementia affects an estimated 487,500 Australians. The number of people affected by dementia in Australia is on the rise and in the absence of a significant medical breakthrough for a dementia vaccine, it’s projected that almost 590,000 Australians will be diagnosed with dementia by 2028. Rates of dementia are predicted to double by 2050. Dementia research suggests that right now, in 2022, it’s estimated that almost 1.6 million people in Australia are involved in the care of someone living with dementia. 

It’s Dementia Action Week between 19-25 September 2022. With so many Australians living with dementia now and into the future, Dementia Action Week 2022 is all about demonstrating that many people living with dementia can continue to live well for many years after their dementia diagnosis. 

The economic cost of dementia is expected to rise to around $26.6 billion, over the next 20 years, according to Dementia Australia. Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, not only emotionally but also financially. The financial impact may include loss of income for both carer and patient; challenges in accessing alternative sources of income like super and Centrelink payments; plus the costs associated with home care packages and entering residential aged care.

As costs of assisted living, nursing home dementia care, and memory care continue to rise, it’s understandable that many people struggle with managing the financial aspect of care. More families are opting to keep their loved ones at home, but if this happens, caregivers often find that they need to cut back on their hours at work or stop working altogether to provide the care their loved one needs.

A carer may be someone that is a friend, family member or a partner. It’s important that they have the right resources, support services and financial ability to remain attentive to the needs of the person living with dementia. Visit Westpac’s Caring for carers site for information about carer wellbeing, caregiver support and financial support for carers.

According to Dementia Australia, “the early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Usually though, people first seem to notice that there is a problem with memory, particularly in remembering recent events.”  Young-onset or early-onset dementia occurs when it’s diagnosed in people of working age, under the age of 65. According to Dementia Australia, an estimated 27,800 people are living with younger onset dementia and without a major breakthrough, this figure is projected to increase to 41,250 people by 2058. Dementia Australia has partnered with people living with younger onset dementia, their families and carers to create an online hub – containing information and resources specific to younger onset dementia. Particularly the financial implications of younger onset dementia. A diagnosis of dementia at a young age is likely to affect a person’s income and financial commitments considerably. They may need to give up work earlier than planned which may have a considerable impact on their capacity to meet their financial commitments, particularly if they have dependants to support.

About dementia and financial management.

Financial management is an important area where people living with dementia may experience anxiety.  It’s certainly confronting to consider there may be a time when you may no longer be able to manage your money if you have to fight dementia. Things that were possible before, like checking bank statements or paying bills, may become challenging. 

Helping Australians living with dementia remain financially independent for as long as possible, and be less vulnerable to financial abuse, is important. Planning ahead, as early as possible, and whilst you are deemed competent from a legal perspective, will help you and your loved ones protect your money and prepare for the future.

Creating a plan means you have a stake in things that may affect you. It also can help loved ones understand your wishes if they have to make decisions for you in the future.

To find out more about planning ahead, check out this helpful information page from Westpac. It outlines key elements that your plan should consider including:

  • Simplifying your finances by consolidating your transaction accounts or reducing the number of credit cards you have to manage.
  • Setting up an enduring power of attorney. The person/s you appoint as your attorney/s should be trustworthy, capable and financially literate.
  • Your estate plan. A set of documents that specify how you would like to be cared for medically and financially if you lose your ability to make decisions for yourself in the future. Key documents in an estate plan may include a will, superannuation death nominees, a testamentary trust, powers of attorney and powers of guardianship, and advanced health or advanced care directives. Be sure these documents are not only kept in a safe place, but that your family/loved ones know where they are. 
  • Protecting your money and safety. Whilst you still can make decisions for yourself, visit Protecting you from financial abuse for more information on how to protect yourself from potential financial abuse and how to report suspected financial abuse.

Also, Westpac’s Life Moments site has a suite of videos, guides and tools that can help people impacted by dementia or their carers to feel financially confident supported and empowered.

Other help: Dementia Australia has information and resources to help you plan ahead and put things in place so your choices will be known if you cannot express your wishes because of the onset of dementia. People with concerns or questions should contact National Dementia on 1800 100 500.

Content current as of September 2022.

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.

author thumbnail image

Lali Wiratunga

Lali Wiratunga believes in encouraging positive financial behaviours to boost people’s financial confidence and help organisations to deliver social impact. In 2016, Lali was recognised for creating a positive impact through Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25. Following a career as a corporate lawyer and management consultant in the UK, he's had 17 years experience in roles across financial services in Australia. He serves in the community as a Board Director of Plate it Forward, a food-based social enterprise that drives equal opportunity through creating opportunities to employ, train and educate individuals who might otherwise be prevented from entering the workforce.

Was this helpful?