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Many adult children worry about the ability of aging parents and other loved ones to handle money and financial affairs. Some studies indicate that as many as 29% of our seniors need assis- tance with money management.
Many older people need assistance because of:
• Loss of a spouse who handled all of the finances.
• Mental impairments.
• Visual impairments.
• Physical impairments (like arthritis)
that limit the ability to write checks
or sign documents.
• Lack of English skills or familiarity
with banking and tax procedures.
• Increased vulnerability to scammers.
When elderly people cannot handle daily finances or become more sus- ceptible to financial abuse, the conse- quences can be severe. Older people who forget to pay bills could lose their home to foreclosure, get evicted from an apartment, risk utility shut-off, or damage their credit. Those who fall vic- tim to scams might get cheated out of large amounts, or priceless smaller pots, of money or lose their home.
The first step in assisting your elderly parent or relative with money management is to determine if they need help – and, if they do, how much help. It all begins with a con- versation.
Finding the right time for the “finances” conversation may be chal- lenging. Sometimes the best time to bring up finances is when you are certain that no assistance is needed. Knowing this to be the case, you can also ask them if they have suggestions about when you should ask again.
Another less vulnerable time is when another friend or family member is experiencing difficulties; this gives you an opportunity to let your parents know that you’re just checking to see that they are O.K.
Bottom line, if you see signs that assistance might be necessary, do some appropriate, initial investigating.
• A quick glance around your loved
one’s home is a great place to start. Piles of unopened mail, bills, papers, and more could be indication that they are overwhelmed. You might ask if they are having a hard time keep- ing up with the filing or if they have been too busy having fun to do the boring things like paying bills.
• A look through that stack of mail might also lead you to questions or concerns. Are there unopened bills, credit card statements, bank state- ments, collection notices, account alerts, and more? Ask if you can help them go through the mail to help clear some of the clutter? A little extra time will allow you to help them file things away as well and find out how their system is supposed to work.
• If you have access, a quick glance
at the checkbook can help you see if the bills are being paid consistently. Large checks written to unknown parties could also be cause for con- cern.
• Does your loved one seem confused or forgetful? Talk to your loved one’s friends and other family members.
If they have given you permission
to talk to their physician then reach out to that person. What do they say about your relative's mental capacity? Have they seen signs of confusion or increasing forgetfulness?
• Have they responded to messages on their answering machine? Ask if you can help clear them out?
• Are their unusual stacks of other items lying around or is the home untidy in a way that is unusual for them? Have the groceries been put away appropriately? Is there evidence that they are eating? You are look- ing for behaviors that are unusual for them.
If you see any of the above then a question or two should at least surface and if you haven’t asked your loved one about them, then now is the time.
While the initial conversation
may be uncomfortable it still needs
to happen. Some seniors will admit they need help and will welcome your assistance. Others will insist they can handle their affairs and will resist your intervention. Some will even suggest that they are offended you even asked.
Sensitivity is important. Be aware that they may be embarrassed that things have gotten out of control. It might be as simple as arthritic hands that make it difficult to write checks. On the other hand, they might be inter- nalizing significant fear about relin- quishing control of money, and ulti- mately, another level of independence.
Explain your concerns about cer- tain aspects of money management, and point out possible consequences if things remain as they are. Involve your loved one in the decision-making process as much as possible. Keep the focus on what they can do and make suggestions only for those tasks that you feel they need help with. Most important, listen to what they have to say about the issue.
These conversations can be difficult and emotional for all parties involved. However, waiting until it is too late can eliminate choices that your loved one might need in the future.
Publisher’s note: Suggestions for transitioning financial management
can be found starting on page 22. If you suspect a more formal method of handling their finances is in order a guardian or conservator can be estab- lished. Guardians and conservators
can be family members or other adults, but must be appointed by the court. To learn more about these more formal methods of handling an elderly person's affairs reach out to Guardian Finance and Advocacy Services at (269) 963- 3253 or 1-866-963-3253.
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Senior Times - March 2017
Page 7
200 Roosevelt Avenue E Battle Creek, MI 49037
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