First steps to take when concerned about an elderly loved one
The holidays often reveal signs that aging parents need some extra help as children who live far from their families return home for a visit. That’s why we wanted to spread the word with our recent blog post about what warning signs could indicate that a relative’s finances may be in danger.
If you noticed any of these behaviors or situations while you were home, you want to act quickly to protect your mom, dad, grandparent, or other loved one from financial exploitation. We know how hard it is to take action in these situations, so we’ve compiled these initial steps you can take to keep them safe without compromising their independence.
- Understand the severity of the situation. How much help an aging adult needs and how they should be assisted will vary from person to person. Financial capacity is often one of the first signs of cognitive impairment, so indications of overspending or poor money management doesn’t mean it’s time to send a loved one off to an assisted living facility. However, if you notice difficulty performing routine activities of daily living, a more drastic response could be required. Solicit the input of neighbors, local relatives, healthcare providers, and friends to see if they think there’s an increased cause for alarm. You can even have someone stop by unannounced in case there are more hidden signs of distress.
- Talk to your loved one. When it comes to discussing a loved one's diminishing capacity, this is easier said than done, particularly if you are dealing with a parent who is used to taking care of you. Follow these tips for a productive and considerate conversation focused on how you can help mom simplify her finances rather than take over her life. You may also want to solicit the help of your siblings.
- Know their 5 wishes. The Five Wishes document is a great way to dig deep into the important topics and decision-making that come with aging, and it’s essential to go through this document while your loved one is still of sound mind. Make sure you know their wishes and are prepared to act on them when the time is right.
- Take baby steps. You don’t need to launch into full-time caregiving the moment you notice a problem. Find small opportunities to provide help without being overbearing. Can you pay for a weekly cleaning service to come by, install some safety features in the bathroom, or set-up an unobtrusive monitoring system? Help your loved one get used to your assistance without taking complete control.
- Help them live independently longer. Early action to protect your loved one and their assets can actually extend the time they’re able to live in their own home and maintain some independence. Look for ways to be helpful to them without controlling their life. Can you handle paying bills online? Get them a prepaid card to use for daily purchases? Find ways to stop telemarketing harassment? Taking away their checkbook – and their spending power along with it – isn’t your only option.
- Don’t go it alone. Managing someone else’s money – which often includes being given power of attorney – can be a lot of work for one person. Consider splitting up responsibilities with others and hire a lawyer or professional fiduciary/guardian as needed. If you’re looking for emotional support, or someone to talk to who’s been through this before, there are a number of caregiver groups and resources you can access for free. Some of our favorites include Caring.com, A Place for Mom, HomeInstead, Carelinx, DailyCaring.com and Caregiving.com.
Help your loved one age with dignity while protecting their finances and well-being. Put these steps into action at the first sign of concern, and everyone will be in a better position for the future.