Accessing Benefits Can Be Challenging for Parents with Alzheimer’s Disease

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by Ray Burow |

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As it becomes necessary, an elderly person, particularly one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, may move from one city or state to another.

Moving in with a family member or to an assisted living facility is an involved process, and little of it is fun. The death of a spouse further complicates the matter.

During their time of mourning, a remaining spouse is often tasked with navigating leftover business. They can’t put it off until later, because the results of what they accomplish could make a difference to their lifestyle in the coming years.

Accessing pertinent information, even for the cognitively agile among us, can be extremely difficult. Imagine the frustration for someone who has been diagnosed with dementia or has other issues that complicate their ability to conduct research.

Unclaimed accounts and aging-related issues

Gathering information about veterans and Social Security benefits and pensions isn’t for the faint at heart. It is easy to just plain give up as you wait an eternity on hold, listening to spotty elevator music. (Is it too much to expect a little Michael Bublé or Ed Sheeran?) Additionally, a person with dementia may be confused by the intermittent interruptions of an automated voice informing them how important their call is.

It is no wonder that billions of dollars are unclaimed each year, sitting in accounts that are long forgotten or simply abandoned because the system housing them was too difficult to navigate. I can’t prove that the accounts are unclaimed by people with Alzheimer’s disease or elderly people who’ve relocated following the death of a spouse, but from my personal experience, it makes total sense.

Receiving what’s rightfully yours

My mother was due insurance and pension benefits from the government agency my father had worked for. After his passing, she relocated to live with family. She experienced months of wading through red tape before what was rightfully hers kicked in.

I wondered at the time how difficult it must be for elderly widows and widowers without family members to help them move forward, especially for those who have dementia, as my mother had. She had the luxury of having money in the bank, but even if she didn’t, her family was at the ready to support her until funds dropped. Others aren’t as fortunate.

Tips for assessing information

Stay tuned for an extensive how-to column about assessing information for your loved one with dementia. However, simply stated, there are a few things you must have at your fingertips before garnering benefits for your mom or dad. Primarily, your parent must be present with you and initially involved in the conversation with the benefits representative. Your parent must give permission to the associate on the other end of the line to provide you, the caregiver, with personal information.

Giving consent may be complicated

Dementia complicates the question-and-answer process for verifying benefits. Parents will need to answer pertinent questions, such as Social Security numbers, present and previous addresses, and where they previously and currently bank. If you’re attempting to access pension information, your parent may be required to relay the start date and the retirement date, and these are challenging questions for a person with dementia.

Gather information before making the call

Write down the answers to the questions they will be asked. Show the answers to your parent and point to the ones that match the associate’s questions. Tell your parent beforehand that you will help with the answers by pointing to what they should read to the associate on the phone. You may have to explain to the associate on the other end why you’re helping. This may or may not be met with acceptance, as the associate’s first responsibility is to protect your parent’s private information. However, they are also experienced in dealing with such issues and may have an alternate suggestion if the normal route doesn’t work out.

Set aside time and be patient

It may take more than one pass, several calls, and website surfing before you have an answer to all that your parent needs to help them move forward. Be as patient as humanly possible, and remember that the person on the other end of the line isn’t the enemy. In many cases, they stand in the gap between what your parent has at the moment and what they need.

The associate follows protocol. With patience and perseverance, you’ll accomplish your goal, satisfying the verification process. And verification is the first step to receiving death, retirement, veterans, and Social Security benefits.

Visit the Social Security Administration’s online services for links to assessing pertinent information about benefits. The online services are a great starting point, but speaking with a representative proved more beneficial for me. To do so, call 1-800-772-1213.

Have you navigated this process before? If so, please share in the comments below. 


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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