Wallet Safety

Wallet Smarts That Preserve an Older Adult's Dignity and Security
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A loved one who lives with a family caregiver probably has little need to carry a wallet or pocketbook -- but that doesn't mean that many older adults don't want to continue the habit.

A purse or wallet, after all, is something he or she probably carried since the teenage years. Giving it up now feels like yet another loss and symbol of worthlessness to many older adults. Lack of documentation and money can create needless anxiety.

Understandably, you may worry about safety and security. Here's what helps:

Exchange a driver's license for an official ID. A license is a powerful source of identity, security, and importance. Seeing an empty space in the wallet where a driver's license used to rest is disconcerting. A solution: Take your loved one to get an identification card at a local DMV office. (In some states, you can do it online.) It's not a license to drive, though it looks similar to one.

Provide a little cash. Large amounts of money can get lost, given away, or spent on unnecessary items. But it's better for someone obsessed about having a wallet or purse to have the security of seeing a few bills in the billfold. Without visible cash, your loved one may experience a constant, low-grade anxiety that "all my money is gone," or "I'm broke." He or she may get on a jag of wanting you to go to the bank together to get some, to be reassured.

Get a credit card with a very low balance. You do want to remove your loved one's credit cards if financial responsibility has become problematic. One option is to replace a card with one that has a low limit that you can monitor. Some caregivers replace effective cards with outdated ones that no longer work; when their loved one tries to use it, they find out that it's denied and get upset in the moment, but then they often forget about it. Other people are content to see some cards in their wallets that look like credit cards -- library card, membership cards, plastic hotel room keys. Lacking the wherewithal to actually use them, someone with dementia, especially, will feel reassured by simply seeing something there that looks right "just in case." Experiment to see what works in your specific situation.


over 3 years ago, said...

olderwiser - funny story for you, my late husband's former mother-in-law was really far into AD before she passed. He took her to her attorney's office for something, but before she left her home, she said she needed to put a hankie in her purse. He didn't think anything about it, until they got to the Lawyer's office. She pulled out her 'hankie', which was the underpants she was supposed to be wearing. Good thing the lawyer knew the family well.


over 3 years ago, said...

nanat: If she is not capable of writing a check, just let her carry them. Makes her feel independent. Most like to still have a set of keys even if they don't work and money and checks even if they don't use them. My husband kept losing a credit card, so I went to the bank and they issued a new one with a very limited about of cash in it. No one could get into the full account. We both were happy.


over 3 years ago, said...

Replacing mom's driver license with an I.D. However, she is "hiding" her checkbooks in her purse when I am suppose to be paying the bills. She is hiding them from me. I have taken them out and put them in her drawer but she puts them back in her purse. She also gets upset with me when I try to help her with messes in the kitchen.


over 3 years ago, said...

My 89 y/o mom always carries her purse. And if we put it out of sight or reach, she constantly asks for it. With her walker or portable wheelchair, winter clothing, and my own purse, it is sometimes a nuisance when we take a day trip or visit a doctor, but it is so very important to her. There is no end to the surprises I find in her purse when we do clean it out monthly. Picture frames, rosaries, magnets from her fridge, small bars of soap, and occasional medications that she probably didn't want to swallow. None of her meds are life sustaining, so I won't make a big deal of that. I never thought to add a set of keys. Since she does often ask about her keys which she no longer needs.... I am going to add a little ring of obsolete keys when I visit her today. I really appreciate this website and all of the great advice.


over 3 years ago, said...

Mom is in Assisted Living and when we go to the foot doc; I hear where is my purse. She definitely has no need for it there or money which is locked in their safe for her in case they go on a trip. I got her the purse and put the hanky, pen, empty wallet with a few coins in it. Then I heard where's my key??? all upset. Since her house is sold; I took her key and put it inside. Lately, when we go she hasn't even asked where it was. It's in her apartment.


over 3 years ago, said...

So very glad to see so many people taking charge of the finances and using clever ways to keep their loved one feeling like they are in charge. Thank you.


over 3 years ago, said...

That's great Kevin45! My 91 year old Dad has yet to look at things from that perspective, but that's what we're doing. My sister lives 6 hours away from him, and I am 15 minutes away from him, so she handles the bills (mailed directly to her, and I handle the health/welfare stuff. Plus, my sister is great with money, and I am very good with Dad and medical stuff.


over 3 years ago, said...

I like my 88 year old Dad's attitude. He said he's like the President and doesn't need to carry a wallet anymore because he has people (me) that handle stuff like that. He says it with a smile realizing that he can't handle finances anymore.


over 3 years ago, said...

We did something simiar to this with Dad when he started responding to telemarketers. My sister and I are POA's, so we told the credit card company that someone had made a charge that wasn't authorized. Got that account closed, left the old card in Dad's wallet. She and I have cards on the current account, Dad has a card that won't work on his. We also opened a small checking account at a local credit union, so he has a debit card and a checkbook on that account and can donate what he want to whomever he wants - this account has no access to his 'normal' accounts or brokerage account - thus protecting this money, but letting him feel generous. We plan on keeping around $1,000 for him to play with - hopefully that will last him about 6 months or so. We'll see.


over 4 years ago, said...

Allene - have him use a debit credit card instead. Keep a very low limit on it in case it is lost thieves can't access your personal debit card. Keep your credit cards in a separate account.


over 4 years ago, said...

My husband is bad about getting his wallet out and going into it on the way into the bank . I finally convinced him to put his money into his wallet before leaving the inside of the bank but I can't make him understand how dangerous this is . The same thing happened to a friend of his years ago and he went and talked to the friends son but I don't have that support and of course my husband can't remember that .


over 4 years ago, said...

Momma has continually looked for her keys. So that is another item we keep in her purse - they aren't the real keys, but she is reassured when when she hears the jingle in her purse.


over 4 years ago, said...

The ID card would be not only reassuring, but valuable in case an elderly person is ever separated from his or her caregiver while away from home. And a few dollars in the wallet will at least buy a coffee or soft drink.


over 4 years ago, said...

My mom would constantly transfer her I.D. and other items from her wallet constantly. We photo-copied and lamented everything placing copies in all of her purses and wallets so that she was never without her cards.


over 4 years ago, said...

Reminding all of us that there are so many simple things in life that give us the feeling of "worth." Getting a photo ID card to replace the drivers license is significant in restoring the sense of identity and importance.


over 4 years ago, said...

I actually learned this the hard way....


over 4 years ago, said...

The credit card. Bob kept losing his wallet and his credit cards. Then I would have to cancel them and start over. Finally I just got him his own card and only kept a limited amount on it. If it got lost they couldn't access my personal accounts. When it ran low, I put another bit of money in it.