Money is a sensitive topic for seniors
Managing finances is an important part of caring for an older adult. But it can be tough to convince someone that they need help, even if all the signs are there. That’s why helping aging parents with finances (or your spouse) requires a gentle approach.
If they’re forgetting to pay bills, making unwise purchases, or getting confused about their accounts, it’s probably time to step in.
But even if they’re having problems, they can still be very resistant. Do your best to go slowly, keep them included, and be patient. Here are 5 essential tips for helping aging parents with finances. Taking this type of approach reduces defensiveness and this list gives you specific tasks to focus on, making your responsibilities feel a little less overwhelming.
1. Respect their decisions
If your older adult is still able to manage their money, be respectful of their decisions and work with them instead of taking over. They’ll appreciate your help in executing the details and will be more likely accept additional help when they realize you’re not trying to take away their control.
If your older adult has dementia or a cognitive impairment, you may need to take over and make decisions on their behalf. It’s still kinder to make them feel included and in control, even if they can’t manage things on their own anymore. Work with other family members to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows that you’re looking out for your older adult’s best interests.
2. Locate important documents
It’s critical to know where the important financial documents are so you can locate them in an emergency. This allows you to protect your older adult’s assets if they’re not able to take care of things themselves.
Your older adult may be concerned that you’ll use these documents before you have to, so be sure to reassure them that you’ll only use the information in an emergency.
Important documents include:
- Bank and brokerage statements
- Insurance policies
- Pension records
- Home mortgage or reverse mortgage
- Social Security payments
- Safe deposit boxes
3. Get access to financial accounts
Getting access to financial accounts requires advance planning and possibly, specific paperwork.
Banks and other financial institutions have strict rules about who can access accounts. And sometimes, they require their own documents to be completed even if you have a Power of Attorney.
To write checks or withdraw money from your older adult’s accounts, you could become authorized to conduct transactions. In some cases, you may want to become a joint owner of the account.
For access to a safe deposit box, your older adult can authorize a “deputy” or “agent.”
Important: Before signing paperwork or getting joint access to any accounts, consulting with a financial manager, fiduciary, elder law attorney, or other qualified professional is always recommended.
4. Keep family informed
Your older adult should stay as involved in financial decisions as possible, but if you need to take full responsibility, it’s wise to share information with other family members or involve them in the process.
This helps avoid conflicts later, like one person accusing another of inappropriately spending the older adult’s money behind the family’s back.
Holding family meetings to discuss finances is also a good way to keep everyone up to date on spending and income. It’s also smart to keep a record of significant discussions, decisions, and actions in case there are disputes in the future.
5. Prepare for the future
If your older adult doesn’t already have a will or estate plan, now is the time to convince them to meet with a lawyer and start the process.
These key legal documents are important because they affect how their assets are distributed when they pass away.
It’s also important to complete other essential legal documents like a Power of Attorney or Living Will. This allows you to make decisions and take action quickly during a health crisis.
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