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How to Help a Senior Manage Their Finances
Many seniors may need assistance with their personal financial situation because they might begin to lose track of tasks, develop mental and visual impairments as they age, and be unfamiliar with handling paying bills online.
As your loved one ages, it’s important to make sure that they are paying their bills on time and in full.
It can be challenging to accept that your older loved one might need some help, but it’s important that you step up and make sure that they are financially sound. Some risks your senior loved one will have when they mismanage money include losing a house, having utilities shut off, going into debt, or damaging credit.
Furthermore, if your loved one has a condition such as dementia, it might be time to step in and help them manage their money. They might be more prone to forgetting about timely payments or accidentally leave their bills unopened on the counter.
Here are some tips you can use to approach your senior loved one and help them with their financial situation today.
Get the Facts
The first step to approaching your loved one about their finances is to gather all the facts before you ask to help. You want to ensure that your loved one has financial trouble before you ask to manage their money.
Some of the facts you will need to gather include:
- Income. You’ll want to know how much your loved one currently makes. Many seniors live on a fixed income from sources such as a retirement plan, social security, or a pension. You should find out if your loved one is able to control their budget while living on a set wage.
- Timely payments. You will want to learn if your loved one has been paying their bills in full or on time.
- Spending. Pay attention to what your older loved one has around their home. If you notice many new items that are expensive and out of budget, it could be a sign that they are mismanaging their money.
- Mail. Is your loved one opening their mail? If you notice bills that go unopened or odd junk mail that points to scams or collection agencies, you might need to talk to your loved one about their money.
- Memory decline. If your loved one is beginning to forget the days of the week and the people around them, then you will want to take them to see a doctor. If you notice signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive issues, then they will need your help with money.
- Checkbooks. If your loved one utilizes a checkbook to pay bills, look inside and see if they’ve been actively using it. Unused pages, bounced checks, and improperly balanced accounts mean that your loved one will need financial assistance.
- Bank Statements. A bank statement can let you know how much your loved one is making and if they are paying the bills on time.
- Phone calls. There are many people who pretend to be charitable organizations or friends. If you notice your loved one is receiving spam calls, then they might have “donated” to a scam.
Approach the topic in a caring way
Many seniors are sensitive about the topic of money because they will want to retain their independence. It can be difficult for some older adults to realize that they need help, especially since they will feel like they are losing a piece of their freedom.
You’ll want to remain respectful when you approach your older loved one so they don’t feel like you’re trying to take away control.
Here are some tips to start the conversation:
Address the concerns
Any concerns that you have – whether it’s dementia, money management, or timely payments – should be addressed in a calm, respectful manner.
You’ll want to be clear when you bring the topic up and make sure that you bring up the potential problems, since avoiding or talking around the subject can make the conversation less productive.
Listen to what your older loved one says when you bring up the problem. They might feel overwhelmed, and maybe they’re struggling to keep up with their finances as a result.
Ultimately, you will have to respect your loved one’s financial decisions. However, talking about the problems can be one step to having your loved one realize and accept that they need help.
Ask to Assist
One way you can help your loved one is by asking to assist them rather than managing their money entirely. This will let them know you’re interested in their well-being without taking away control.
Asking to assist will also make your loved one more likely to let you step in in the future when they need you to help them financially plan. They’ll feel more comfortable later on if you assist with a few small steps for now.
Some ways you can help your loved one is by reviewing their checks before they mail them, assisting them with balancing their checkbook, and giving them financial planning advice. These are small ways you can start becoming involved without controlling their finances entirely.
Another way you can help your senior loved one is by setting specific goals. Whether that’s helping them create a will, writing a budget plan, or mapping out their retirement money, one way to approach financial concerns is by setting your loved one up for continued financial success as they age.
You’ll want to discuss both short-term as well as long-term goals when you make plans with your loved one. You’ll also want to discuss what happens if they live longer than expected or if they need extra medical care than previously anticipated.
These conversations can be one way that you begin to bring up the topic of money while still allowing your loved one to make their own monetary decisions. They can follow the plans, and if they find that they need help, you’ll be able to come and assist them with the money.
Know When to Step In
It’s critical that if you think your loved one needs help that you step in and start managing their money. There are some situations where you’ll want to immediately take over the finances of a senior loved one so they don’t become bankrupt.
Some reasons you should step in to help your senior loved one with their finances include:
- Medical reasons. If your loved one experiences cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s, it’s time to step in and help them manage their money. Other medical reasons where you’ll want to take over the finances include if your senior loved one transfers to assisted living or if they develop a health problem where they visit the doctor frequently.
- Scams. Many seniors fall prey to scams, whether it’s phone or email, where people pretend to be relatives, friends, utility companies, and charities. If you notice your loved one is gifting money to people you don’t recognize, it might be time to intervene to make sure that they don’t give people their hard-earned savings.
- Elder Abuse. Did you know that 90% of elder abuse scams comes from relatives and caregivers? If you notice your loved one has given money to someone who doesn’t have their best interest in mind, it might be time to step in and help them control their budgeting.
Start the Conversation Today
Take the time to plan how to approach your senior loved one about your concerns over their financial situation. Starting the conversation about money and how you can help will allow you to plan for the future and how to handle their assets.
Here at Saber Healthcare, we support helping seniors stay active and independent as they go through the care programs at our aquired buildings. Our teams will design healthcare plans that help the residents we serve achieve their highest level of functioning. To learn more about Saber Healthcare and what we offer, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Achieving Better Finances: What Every Senior & Elderly American Should Think About.” Great Senior Living. 24 September 2021. Accessed 3 November 2021. Link: https://www.greatseniorliving.com/articles/senior-finances