Trying to cope with a loved one's onset of dementia can be difficult for the mental and physical toll it takes alone. But unfortunately, the rampant number of scams and con artists in existence add another layer to the stress: The possibility of your loved one being financially compromised.

Common Scams Targeted At The Elderly And Dementia Patients

Identity theft is one of the most common techniques scammers use to take advantage of dementia patients and the elderly, and also one of the most dangerous. Once a scammer has access to documents including personal information (such as social security numbers or bank account information), they can gain access to an individual's personal assets, and often go undetected until much damage is done. A usual technique is going through mail or trash in order to find these personal documents, but in the case of the elderly, many scammers send mail—attempting to trick these victims into voluntarily giving their personal information away.

False insurance policies are another common tactic used against the elderly. Fake salespeople will often try and trick individuals into purchasing bogus insurance policies, which either don't exist or aren't necessary. Dementia patients are especially at risk, since they are potentially unable to implement the critical thinking necessary to detect whether the offer is legitimate. Victims of dementia are often taken advantage of due to their tendency to be easily fooled, frustrated or confused.

Investment schemes are another vehicle commonly leveraged against the elderly. Scammers will often present an appealing investment opportunity, promising eventual payoffs only after a significant amount of money is invested. Dementia patients, who may be more susceptible to such promises, may voluntarily contribute—and lose—thousands of dollars to these kinds of nonexistent investment schemes.

Recent Prevalence

A recently released survey from the Alzheimer's Society estimates that over 112,000 people living with dementia—representing 15 percent of all dementia patients—have been victimized by scams and financial abuse. Additionally, 70 percent of caregivers have reported regular instances of their loved ones or patients being approached by callers or salespeople with questionable intentions.

How To Protect Dementia Patients From Scams

First, you must evaluate whether your loved one is cognizant enough to manage his or her finances responsibly. If you feel as though your loved one is vulnerable to these kinds of scams, be sure to pay extra attention to people who approach him or her, and routinely take safety precautions such as shredding personal documents, and throwing out junk mail with bogus offers.

Eventually, you may wish to seek power of attorney for your loved one. This can ensure you obtain full control over your loved one's finances, in the event he or she is not mentally aware enough to be legally responsible for these decisions.

Being aware of the possible scams that can be attempted against your loved one is the first key in preventing a financial disaster. Regularly evaluate your loved one's ability to analyze the legitimacy of such attempts, and if necessary, seek power of attorney to protect them.