‘She's usually quicker than the calculator’: financial management and decision-making in couples living with dementia

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Abstract

This article explores how married couples managed their finances and made financial decisions when one spouse had dementia, drawing comparisons with the approaches used prior to the illness. More specifically, the article examines the role of social factors in influencing the involvement of people with dementia in financial management and decision-making, particularly whether a gender dynamic adopted earlier in a marriage similarly influenced a gendered approach following dementia. The research formed part of a larger study of everyday decision-making by couples living with dementia which explored the role of non-cognitive factors in influencing whether people with dementia were involved in decision-making processes. Twenty-one married couples living at home took part; the recently-diagnosed were excluded. Qualitative methods -including participant observation and interviews - were used to examine the couples’ fiscal management and decision-making-processes, the perceptions of people with dementia and their spouses about their current financial abilities and whether any support provided by spouse-carers influenced their partners’ financial capacity. The fieldwork was undertaken in the North of England between June 2010 and May 2011. Thematic analysis of the data showed that social factors influenced the perceived capacity of people with dementia and the financial practices adopted by the couples. In particular, gender influenced whether people with dementia were involved in financial decisions. The research demonstrated that non-cognitive factors need to be taken into account when assessing and facilitating the capacity of people with dementia. In addition, as people with dementia were somewhat marginalised in decisions about designating financial authority (Lasting Power of Attorney), spouse-carers may need guidance on how to undertake advance care planning and how to support their relatives with dementia in major decision-making, particularly when there are communication difficulties.

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