I don’t often write blogs of a personal nature, but today I cried in the bank and I don’t think that is anything anyone should have to go though. This story does link into customer service training and whether an organisation really tries to understand it customers (or not!), so I felt it worth sharing.

My dad is 84 and just over 18 months ago was diagnosed with Alzheimers. I could go on about how difficult things are for my mum and the family, but I am sure you can imagine. One problem that is recurring, is forgetting his pin number or losing his card. Having taken the time (5 months) and used the legal profession to sort out Lasting Power Attorney(LPOA), I thought it would be straightforward to be able to help out with their banking.

At the moment that would mean:

  • Reordering a new PIN or a new card
  • Transferring money between accounts if needed

It took 5 trips to the bank before I was given ALL the correct information:

  • I did not need my parents with me
  • It did not have to be at their branch
  • I needed to bring in the full 17 page document for LPOA to photocopy not just the notification
  • I needed two (not just one) forms of identification with my address to verify who I was
  • Signing a form to say my dad was not mentally capable of conducting his financial affairs meant his card would be cancelled (he can still go to the autoteller and take money out)

So why did I cry today? Yesterday my dad tried to take some money out and his card was declined, he thought he had typed in the wrong PIN number. My brother then took him in the evening and realised the PIN was not incorrect but the card was declined. My dad was upset because he does not know why he is not “allowed” to do certain things any more – he has always done all the banking for him and my mum. I phoned the bank and could not access the telephone banking.

After 2 phone calls I was put onto the fraud team who asked me questions to take me through security (obviously), but I could not tell them what direct debits mum and dad have or standing orders on their account (because I don’t use their account other that when they ask). I was told to go into my nearest branch (in Otley, Yorkshire and my parents live in Rochdale) with 2 forms of identification because they could not say why the account was under fraud investigation or why my dads card had been declined.

Full of a cold and feeling frazzled I waited in line while they investigated and then explained. No one said sorry….. Two bank transfers via telephone, attempted by me, but authorised by my parents had been viewed as suspicious, meaning the account was being handled by the fraud team. No one got in touch to ask what the amounts were and if they were okay. Signing a form to say my dad was not capable of handing his financial affairs meant his card was blocked. No one had explained this would happen, as I had explained my dad can still go and get money from the auto teller.

Another form came – this time I had to sign it to say my dad is mentally capable, so that he can use his bank card. I tried to explain how hard it was to see this in such black and white terms. I tried to say how hard it is to make decisions on behalf of a man, with diminishing capability, who was my hero growing up. To see him fade away and struggle with the simplest of tasks. When he saw me cry, Edmund told me not to be upset. I tried to say I already was and really nothing he could do or say could stop that.

Here are the three things, that I believe need fixing in the banking system to avoid this happening time and time again(I don’t believe that it is not happening on a  daily basis):

  • Banks need to be aware that sometimes suspicious amounts of money leaving an account are not always fraudulent and treat people as if they were innocent first, guilty when proved to be so
  • Security checks need to be appropriate to the person calling, taking into consideration if they have full access to an account
  • The understanding that with dementia patients, there may not be an absolute cut off point when someone is mentally incapable and that their dignity should be as much as possible maintained

Today I read that in 2015 Lloyds Bank had one an award for their work in making their services more dementia friendly. So I would ask anyone reading this, to share this story in their network . This is not some case study to mull over or find a solution for, but real lives that need others to be more empathetic and understanding when dealing with the simple every day thing of managing your money, when you have dementia.

If anyone would like to know which bank this happened in it was Barclays.


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