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This Social Security Program Could Help Retirees With Dementia

A seldom-used Social Security program could help more people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia manage their money, according to a new research brief from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.

The Representative Payee Program lets a designated proxy receive and manage a retiree’s benefit check for them. Without some form of money management, seniors with dementia are especially vulnerable to financial fraud, abuse, or mismanagement.

Still, the program isn’t widely used by that population. Among dementia-stricken retirees with dementia who are over the age of 70 and collect Social Security benefits, only 9.1% go through a representative payee, according to the brief, which references data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) between 1992 and 2010.

Additionally, just 2% of seniors 70 or older who have a mild cognitive impairment use the program.

Instead, many of those retirees with dementia rely on family members, nursing homes, or people with power of attorney for help. More than 95% of seniors with dementia and 85% of seniors with mild cognitive impairment have some form of assistance, the brief notes.

But not every senior with cognitive impairment or dementia gets help managing their finances. Older adults who are isolated, have do not have a college degree or are non-white often have less assistance than their peers.

“Fortunately, this analysis shows that most people without a payee have some other source of assistance available. These arrangements may be preferable to having a payee because they allow individuals to maintain some autonomy for as long as possible,” the brief’s authors concluded. “Still, social service organizations should recognize that people who are vulnerable in other ways – for example because they have little education or are isolated from family – may also lack help managing their money.”

Written by Tim Regan

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