7 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Financial Help
- Friday, October 25, 2013
The Alzheimer's Association says that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. If that weren't bad enough, by 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to nearly triple.
Unfortunately, it doesn't take an advanced case of Alzheimer's to disrupt one's ability to manage money. The concentration and memory skills required for many financial tasks means that even those in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia may find it impossible to keep their finances on track.
"Early stages (of dementia) involve forgetfulness," says Kelly Thomas, a social worker with the Alpena Regional Medical Center and a nearly 20-year veteran in the field of home care. "By the time they are in the middle stages of dementia, they are already having financial problems."
While it may often be obvious that a confirmed Alzheimer's sufferer needs assistance, even those who haven't been diagnosed with a specific type of dementia may need help with their finances as they age. If you see the following signs around your parents or other older relatives, it may be time to ask what you can do.
1. Overdraft and shut-off notices
If you see notices on the table when you come to visit or your parents complain about mounting bank fees, it could indicate they are no longer able to balance their checkbook or keep track of the due dates for their bills.
2. Growing credits on recurring bills
On the flip side, some individuals with dementia may end up with large credits on their bills. Since they don't remember sending in a payment, they may send in multiple checks each month.
3. An empty bank account at the start of the month
If it is the start of the month and your parents have already burned through their money, they obviously have a money-management problem. If they don't know where the money went, it could also be a sign of dementia.
4. Stacks of unopened mail or items filed in unusual places
When visiting, a stack of unopened mail is a red flag. Adult children should also watch for items stored or filed in curious places. If your parent is filing paperwork in a new or random spot, it that could be a sign they have either forgotten what to do with the paperwork or, for those with early dementia, are compensating for their forgetfulness by trying a new method of organization.
5. Uncharacteristic purchases
If your normally prudent parent suddenly buys a new car, flashy smartphone or other major purchase that doesn't fit their needs or lifestyle, it could be an indication of slipping financial management skills caused by declining cognitive abilities.
6. Increased gambling
Thomas says she often sees gambling problems with seniors who have dementia. They may no longer be able to keep track of how much they have in their checking account or how much they have lost while playing. While spending a day at the casino may be normal behavior for some seniors, a change in habits could signal a bigger problem.
7. Strange mail and phone calls
Nicholas Reister, an attorney with Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says once a senior has started making poor financial choices, scammers can come out of the woodwork.
"Once there is some blood in the water, it seems to trigger all sorts of things," says Reister. "Things looking like charity, things looking like offers to claim large prizes."
Strange mail and an uptick in telephone solicitations may be a sign Mom and Dad are giving their money to the wrong people.
Options for stepping in
According to Reister, there are several ways to take over the finances for an aging parent.
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