Rob Stock: Death-bed promise behind Westpac's dementia banking
OPINION: "Ageing is not for wimps," I was told once by a senior life insurance executive whose mother had dementia.
He was speaking a few days after police had rescued her from a roadside after she'd got lost.
Around 60,000 people have dementia, a number expected to climb to around 150,000 by 2050 as the population ages.
An Alzheimer's diagnosis will generally come after people begin to struggle with some aspects of their lives, including managing their banking.
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I hadn't thought about Alzheimer's since the "Ageing is not for wimps" conversation, perhaps eight or so years ago.
Then a week ago, I met Lorraine Hunter from Westpac, who made a death bed promise to her father to do something to help people living with dementia.
The result was Westpac's dementia banking programme to help people diagnosed with Alzheimer's put in place banking disciplines and processes to protect their money, while retaining their independence for as long as possible.
When a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made, Westpac customers can ask for a "notification" to be put on their accounts to ensure an extra level of care from bank staff.
Westpac staff are now trained on how to serve people with Alzheimer's, including what to do if they think a person has become confused.
People diagnosed with Alzheimer's can also ask Westpac to recognise an "alternative contact person" who can be called when assistance is acquired. It's usually a close family member.
Westpac also helps people dementia-proof their banking, for example, making sure accounts like the power are paid by direct debit.
Some also put a low limit on their day-to-day account to limit the amount of funds that can accessed.
Having a proper filing system at home with all important documents in one place is also important.
So is preparing for the day when some trusted other will take the lead in decision-making.
It is when a person is still able to make decisions independently that a will and enduring powers of attorney (EPA) should be put in place.
An EPA allows the person named in it to act for you, doing things like paying your bills and collecting income on your behalf.
Learning about dementia banking reminded me how many people I know who do not have wills, EPAs and trusts in place.
What also struck me was the commitment that family members have to make in helping loved ones with dementia remain independent for as long as possible.
For while 60,000 people may be living with dementia, there's a greater number helping them manage the ordinary things in life like banking.
Hunter works in Westpac's private bank, helping wealthy people with their banking.
But her promise to her father means she's helped make it easier for families to play a similar roles for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's.
- Every adult needs a will
- Every adult should have EPAs in place
- Many of us will become a trusted helper to an older relative