As experts in the homecare field, Unicity Healthcare understand the many various issues that seniors — and their families — face. We realize that no two clients are the same, and as such, home health care needs vary based on their individual needs. As such, we develop an individualized service plan, incorporating all aspects of the person’s life and family. The steps involved in this process is vital in creating the Unicity Homecare approach, one that stresses personalization, dedication and quality care.
Below, please find our tips for helping to managing your elderly loved one’s finances, which you should start taking now to protect your seniors from financial hardship.
How To Know When Aging Loved Ones Need Financial Help
It’s important to be aware of the warning signs that your elderly loved ones need help with finances, before things become unmanageable and out of control. There are a number of reasons seniors begin to suffer financial duress. From cognitive impairment to illness, financial woes can quickly escalate due to for expenses and unpaid bills, leading to financial troubles.
It’s often hard for parents to admit that they need help, because they worry about their loss of independence. However, daily living tasks sometimes get to be too much as they age, and it’s important for family members and loved ones to step up and address the problem when this happens, and in particular financial issues need to be addressed in a timely manner.
Here are some warning signs that your loved ones may need financial assistance:
- Bills and Mail Are Unopened: Take a look around your the home to see whether there are stacks of unopened or unsorted mail, paying attention to statements from mortgage or credit card companies, utility bills or notices from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If it appears that bills or other mail is not getting opened, you need to address the problem immediately.
- Calls From Creditors: Simply checking caller ID logs in order to keep track of phone calls, you can determine if perhaps creditors are contacting your elderly relatives. Try to keep track of an increase in phone calls from new numbers that may be bill collectors or see if there are calls from credit card companies or unpaid invoices from household help (for example, housekeepers or landscapers.)
- Obvious Mishandling Of Money: If your aging loved one starts to act confused or seems to ignore their growing number of expenses (or no longer seems to have any cash or money in their wallet) it can be a sign something is wrong. If you see undeposited checks or unopened mail from insurance companies, pension funds or Social Security, this might be a sign that they are no longer able to go to the bank, make deposits or have the mental capacity to keep up with their finances. Forgetfulness is something to take notice of, for reasons even other than financial circumstances.
- An Increase In Unnecessary, Expensive Purchases If your seniors are suddenly is making expensive purchases or spending a lot of money on things around the house, such as new appliances or entertainment, it may be time to investigate. Noticing anything out of the ordinary that is not a rational “splurge” can be a warning sign of impaired judgment, or even memory loss — also a sign or early sign of dementia.
- “We Never Have Enough Money” If the topic of money, or lack thereof, seems to come up in conversation often, it may be a sign that money is tight. For instance if you feel your loved ones are changing their lifestyle due to worries about money — such as declining invitations to go out with family or friends or make few car trips to save on gas — it may be time to discuss finances with them to see if there is a real problem. If their residence is in need of repairs that they seemingly cannot afford, and it is impacting their safety in the home, it may be a sign that their expenses are too much for them to handle on their own.
- Mentally Or Physically Unfit To Maintain Daily Living Tasks: If there are signs that your elderly loved one can no longer handle activities of daily living, there could be a problem. With age, the day-to-day tasks can often become unmanageable. In particular, if their house seems unkempt, in disarray or needing repairs, it’s probably time to re-assess their living situation. Additionally something such as paying bills can become difficult for seniors who suffer from arthritis, or if their eyesight is weakening, they may not be able to keep up with mail or other tasks.
- Elder Fraud Or Financial Scams: Strange mail or calls can be telltale signs of elder fraud and financial scams. Older adults are often lonely and very trusting, they can be especially vulnerable to scam artists and telemarketers. Sometimes even well-meaning friends and family can take advantage of the elderly, so it’s important to be aware and investigate if anything seems strange. Some easy examples of fraud or scams are illegal solicitations, sweepstakes mailings or emails, suspicious companies requesting information, or vacation home or time-share offers.
Discussing Finances With Your Loved One
The most important step to helping your aging loved ones with their money is to talk to them. The initial conversations may be difficult but it’s important if you feel they need help. While they still may still be able to handle most of their finances, it is still an important conversation to have while they are still mentally able to.
It’s important to remember to respect your parent’s decisions throughout the process. You can express concerns, but also should listen to what they have to say as well. Even if your parents have dementia or Alzheimer’s they can still have input into their finances. In cases such as this, as a caregiver you may have to take on more responsibility, but still keeping them out of this process as long as they are able to is very important to their well-being.
Tips To Help With Financial Management
It is not easy to discuss finances, and that can make it hard to discuss money with your senior loved one. However in order for them to stay financially safe and live as comfortably as possible in their remaining years, they’ll probably need some help managing finances. Take the time to help them now and you’ll all be better off in the future.
Financial hardship come with serious consequences, so it’s important for families to get involved and help make sure your loved ones stay in a good place financially as they age. Here are a few steps you can take:
1. Keep In Close Contact
Check in on your senior loved one frequently to find out how they are, and try to regularly discuss any financial situations you should be aware of. Financial hardship is less likely to happen if you’re having regular conversations about money with your loved one and checking on the status of their financial accounts periodically.
2. Create A Budget
If you’re worried your senior loved one’s spending habits are becoming an issue, then work with them to create a monthly budget. For many people, setting clear goals around how much to spend each month on different things can make a big difference in keeping their spending under control.
3. Work Together To Cut Unnecessary Expenses
Parts of budgeting is figuring out the areas where you can cut unnecessary spending. Sometimes these can be small changes (such as giving up clothes shopping or regular meals at a nice restaurant) but in other cases it may mean downsizing to a smaller living space that costs less and needs less maintenance. Work to identify which expenses are non-necessities and which of those they can live without while still maintaining their quality of life.
If due to health reasons the potential that your loved one will require home care, assisted living or incur other expensive health care bills, the time to start saving is now.
5. Protect Their Financial Security
As we touched on above, there are a lot of different scams focused on seniors. The first thing you should do to help your loved one with their financial management is talk about how to recognize common senior scams so they know what to look out for. Explain the basics of online security and how to avoid identity theft by recognizing phishing emails, and shredding papers with sensitive information on them, instead of just throwing them out.
6. Secure Financial Power Of Attorney
As hard as it may be to have this conversation with your loved one, there is a good chance that at some point they won’t be able to independently manage their finances. It will protect them and their assets if when that day comes they’ve taken the advance step of providing financial power of attorney to someone they trust. By having that conversation now, while they’re lucid and able to take the steps to make it happen, you can be better prepared for what’s to come down the road.
7. Obtain Access To Accounts
Gaining access to your parents’ financial accounts can be beneficial, and if you have power of attorney you may be able to manage their money safely this way. Being able to write checks and deposit money for your loved ones can be a great way to help manage their finances. You can either simply be authorized to conduct transactions, or you could become a joint owner of the account, based on your loved one’s needs. If you are confused as to how much control you wish to obtain over your loved one’s accounts, it may be a good idea to find an elder law attorney for assistance.
Consider Professional Assistance
If managing your loved one’s finances is starting to get a little overwhelming, hiring a professional can make things much easier on you. A certified accountant or financial planner will be able to sort through everything and either advise you on what needs to be done, or take care of most of it for you.
Knowing that your loved one’s finances are being carefully monitored and attended to can ease a lot of worry for you and your family. The key is communication. Talk to your parents to determine which course of action is best, and keep the rest of your family updated throughout. It may be a bumpy ride at first, but once you get everything sorted out, you will feel much better about your parents’ affairs.
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If your loved one’s cognitive or physical health is declining and becoming a factor in their living arrangement (as well as affecting the management of their financial situation) it’s time to look into how you can seek assistance. If you become aware of anything out of character or outside of normal behavior, seeking to improve their quality of life — if independent living in the family home is no longer working — is the first step. Whether it’s finding in-home care, a senior living community or assisted living facilities, it’s important to find the right care options for each unique family situation.
Unicity Healthcare Is Here To Help
Our integrated care management services bring peace of mind to our clients and their families. By integrated we mean that our Care Managers, who are either highly experienced geriatric Social Workers or Registered Nurses, act as the glue that holds the care process together. Our scope of intervention and expertise is broad. There is always a solution and we are here to help.
Keeping a client centered approach, our certified Senior Advisors can not only help in finding the most appropriate care solutions for our clients, but they also help in the implementation of these solutions in a very pragmatic manner. From setting up and supervising homecare services to finding placement alternatives, our Care Managers always act in our clients’ best interests and with the utmost professionalism.
In the event that homecare is the most appropriate care alternative, our Care Managers can most definitely help make it work, capitalizing on the large pool of caregivers that Unicity employs and substantial experience in Home Healthcare.