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Watch for warning signs that your aging parents need help


January 1, 2021 | View PDF

Watch for warning signs that your aging parents need help

If you've been entrusted with assisting an elderly relative in scheduling preventive exams and putting a health-care plan in place, you may struggle to know when it's time to take on a greater role in other aspects of their life. That's why now is the perfect time to look for warning signs that your loved one might be suffering from a decline in financial ability.

Despite years of accumulated knowledge and experience, it is likely that, at some point, your loved one's financial capability will be challenged as they age, making it more difficult to competently handle money-related mat-ters on their own. This decline can occur even if illnesses, such as Alzheimer's or dementia, are not present.

For example, establishing a plan to manage your parents' finances in their senior years is important, particularly if you intend to engage other family members in the process. A survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that 86 percent of people want their family to help with financial matters if they become unable. However, nearly 7 in 10 say their family dynamics prevent that from happening. According to the survey, 58 percent of families experience disagreements, conflicts or confrontation with others when aging affects financial decision making.

Whether you're a child or family member who has been enlisted to help or even if you're charting your own financial future, approaching these discussions with candor and an open mind is critical.

"Especially if you're accustomed to handling money matters privately, learning to talk more candidly about your finances may be uncomfortable," said Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. "However, allowing trusted individuals to take a closer look at your accounts can help you establish a realistic plan for the future and help flag any potential concerns."

One method Beck recommends for protecting your parents is to allow view-only access, which lets loved ones help monitor unusual activity on your banking and credit accounts. If restrictions for unauthorized users prohibit this, you can set up an alert program (via email or text) when a transaction over a set amount occurs. Also, remember to perform regular credit checks to avoid scams and identity theft.

Check the three major reporting bureaus, and stagger the reports to get one every four months.

Additional tools and resources are available at to help ensure your loved ones' finances stay healthy through these golden years.

Financial Warning Signs

New dents, scratches and dings on your loved one's car might be a sign of deteriorating driving ability. These are pretty obvious warn-ing signs. With impaired financial decision making, the signs may not be quite as obvious, but if you know what to look for, you might be able to spot it early.

1. Is the aging person taking longer to com-plete financial tasks? Do they struggle with everyday efforts like preparing bills for mail-ing, reconciling bank statements or organizing paperwork?

2. I s the person missing key details in finan-cial documents? Are bills piling up? Have they missed a payment? Are they able to prioritize their regular responsibilities?

3. Is your aging loved one experiencing problems with everyday arithmetic? Maybe you recently went out to dinner with mom and dad, and, when paying, they took an inordinate amount of time to calculate the appropriate tip.

4. Have you noticed a decreased understand-ing of financial concepts when you talk with your loved ones? Are they having increased difficulty comprehending health-care matters, such as deductibles, or are they having a hard time understanding the bank statements they receive?

5. Are they having new difficulty identifying investment risks? Are they able to minimize the risks in potential investments? Did they recently fall victim to fraud or a scam because they could not spot the liabilities?

Pay extra attention to the warning signs of mental and financial decline. Most important-ly, take the time to talk to your aging loved ones about their wishes and how you can help them.


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