Tips on Caring for Senior Parents Finances

Seniors looking at documents
July 1st, 2017

One of the most challenging aspects of caring for your aging parents is taking control of their finances or assisting them with financial choices. The decision can be a difficult one and following through may be even more complicated, especially if your parents don’t agree.

Understanding the Issues of Caring for Seniors

Sometimes it may be that your parents just need your advice and guidance in making sound financial decisions. Other times, you may see the need for intervention if they aren’t as alert as before or if they’ve been diagnosed with dementia.

Because money represents freedom and many seniors have lived through difficult times and know the value of saving money, they may not be willing to relinquish control of the finances. Just being aware of the situation and the struggles ahead can help you be better prepared to deal with this aspect of aging.

Start Talking Early

Don’t wait until you need to take control of the finances to discuss them with your parents. Instead, talk about money and the future while they are still in good health. The subject is a lot less sensitive when you’re talking about something that may occur in the distant future. Your parents can make their wishes known and discuss the appropriate time for you to take over when it happens.

Some practical ways you can help your parents with finances while they’re still capable of managing them include the following:

• Discuss pre-paying for funeral expenses or find out about burial or life insurance to pay for final expenses.

• Get a list of all creditors and bill payments in case you need to take over in a hurry due to an illness or injury.

• Find out about all bank accounts and other funds with addresses and account numbers.

• Discuss who will have power of attorney if there is more than one adult child, and have your parents sign the paperwork.

• Ask if your parents have a will and find out if other documents are current.

Taking these steps early can help you feel better and allows your parents to get used to the idea of having your assistance in the future.

When More Senior Assistance is Needed

If you notice your parents start to fail or become forgetful, talk to them about it. Set reminders for when bills are due and review accounts and bills with them. You’ll have a better idea about what is going on without taking charge of everything. As long as your parents can maintain control, they’ll be less likely to resist your assistance.

At this point, seniors may still be adept at dealing with most financial decisions. It’s often the little things that slip by. For instance, a bill may be forgotten until after the due date. Older people often fail to write down a check or not remember if cash or a debit card used for a purchase. By reviewing the accounts, you can ensure there’s still enough money to pay the bills and nothing gets left out.

If the time comes for you to get more involved, try to include your parents as much as possible. For example, you can write the checks or go online to pay bills, but do it at their house and explain what you’re doing. If talking about finances and bills begins to bother them, just say everything is taken care of, rather than providing the details.

When Spending Gets Out of Control

For various reasons, some seniors start spending money recklessly or spend more than is in the bank account. You don’t want to stand by and watch them lose all of the money, but you have different options on how to handle the situation. For some, it may be as simple as talking to them and finding out what’s going on. Depression or other mental health conditions can lead to overspending and a change in medication or routine may solve the issue.

Other times, you may need to take away the credit card or leave a limited amount of money in the bank account. At its most extreme, you may even have to go to court to take control of your parents’ finances if they’re unable to manage the money. This is a difficult decision for an adult child to make, but you must remember you’re only caring for your parents’ best interests and protecting them from making the wrong decisions.

Read more: Giving Advice to Families When Aging Parents Move In