Jun 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Finances

Financial Elder Abuse is Common

A few years ago, an elderly parent was talked into an identity theft insurance policy by a telemarketer.  The charge showed up on her credit card account, and her senior-citizen children questioned the charge.  The insurance company had recorded the call and replayed it for them.  She clearly was being coerced into the policy but didn’t know how to say no; she was part of that polite generation of elderly who were never taught how to decline in a firm but polite way.

The issue clearly identified the need for her family to assist her with money management.  Several years prior to this incident, she had sent her quarterly payment to the IRS without filling out the check.  At that time, she asked her adult children to take over paying her bills.  So it was not too difficult for them to talk with her about the ID theft policy issue, and discuss how they should try to prevent the problem from recurring in the future.

Guidelines for Assisting Elderly with Finances

In the process of figuring out how to assist her without causing unnecessary emotional issues, the seniors followed these guidelines:

  • Monitor your elderly parent’s finances discreetly and carefully.  Don’t make a big deal about your monitoring.  Be sure your parent has as much independence and control over her/his money as possible and still be safe from elder abuse from predators.
  • Stay in touch with friends and caregivers who can identify problems the elderly one has with money.  Inability to figure out how much money should be given to pay for an item is a biggie with elderly when they lose cognitive functioning.
  • If you have siblings, be sure to keep them in the loop. Some families like to share responsibility for elderly parents, and some delegate it to one of the siblings or a caretaker.  Whatever you decide, be sure you and your siblings are all on the same page.
  • Be sure you have a Durable Power of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney executed by your elderly parent(s). It is important to discuss these two legal documents with your parents before their cognition becomes impaired.  You need to know their wishes and how they want their affairs handled in the event you need to use these documents on their behalf.  They are not documents that give you free reign.  You must be morally and ethically bound to do what they would do if they were able.

Financial issues involving elderly parents can be touchy.  They need to be allowed as much independence as they can safely handle, and adult children need to keep that in mind as they provide assistance.  The operative word in that situation is “safely”Elderly parents must be allowed management of their personal finances so long as they can do so without risk of mistaken loss of money or loss from predators. Adult senior-citizen children must remain attentive in providing financial management assistance to their elderly parents.

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