3 Steps to Helping an Older Family Member Manage Their Finances
As parents age, their adult children face many challenges. Some of which can be financial. Research shows older adults may be more susceptible to financial scam artists. Additionally, older adults may be living on a fixed income and have concerns about how to pay for everyday expenses plus medical expenses.
Adult children might need to take on the responsibility of managing an older loved one’s finances–or at least helping out. Especially if an aging parent is considering a move to senior living and wondering if it’s the right financial choice.
These tips can help ease older adults into the idea of having a family take over some of the responsibility for the senior’s finances.
Tips for Helping a Senior Loved One with their Finances
1. Start with a conversation—or several
Your older loved one may have difficulties managing finances due to physical impairments, such as vision loss or arthritis. Or they may have cognitive difficulties due to a condition like Alzheimer’s.
If you feel your loved one is struggling—ask. Many will readily admit to challenges and want you to help them manage finances in whole or in part. They may not have wanted to ask because they think you are already too busy.
2. Assess the situation
If your aging loved one insists they don’t need help, investigate.
- Do you see unopened bills lying around?
- Does your loved one receive phone calls from “unidentified” phone numbers, often indicative of bill collectors?
- Does the checkbook seem to be up-to-date? Have there been any unexplained large withdrawals?
- Can your loved one explain most of the transactions in the checkbook?
If you see any of the above signs, have another conversation to discuss ways you can help your loved one gain control of their finances.
3. Create a plan to help
Once you determine how much assistance your loved one needs, find the best, least intrusive way to provide it. Your goal should be to help your loved one continue to feel independent and competent while ensuring sound financial management.
An older loved one with arthritis might need something as simple as automatic bill pay to eliminate writing checks. Or your loved one may be okay managing day-to-day finances but need help with investments or financial planning.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, you might need to take a more active role. People with this disease often have impaired judgment which puts them at higher risk for fraud or theft. You can become an authorized signer on financial accounts in order to keep an eye on funds and assist with money management or become a joint account holder to maintain greater financial control.
In extreme situations where your loved one is unable to manage finances at all, you can file for financial durable power of attorney. This will give you the authority to manage your loved one’s finances for them.
When It’s Time for “The Talk”
Talking about money with your aging loved one may not be easy, but it is necessary. Even if you determine your loved one can still manage money—for now—it’s important to have a plan in place for when the time comes that he or she can’t.
It’s especially essential that you talk about today’s most common financial scams targeting older adults to prevent your loved one from becoming a victim.
If you need help getting your loved one’s finances in order, an Elder Law attorney may be the answer. You can learn more about issues impacting older adults impacting older adults in the Five Star Resource Center.