Home Instead Blog

6 Signs that Seniors may have Financial Problems
Mar 21, 2014

Financial problems can easily spring out of control if seniors don't tackle them fast. And if they're reserved about their finances or frightful of losing control over their money, they may be less likely to confide in a caregiver or family member about any money difficulties they may be experiencing -- giving problems time to increase.

Money management problems can also be an early sign of memory loss. If these problems are new, be sure to check in with a GP/doctor.

Even if you're not in the know to the details of their finances, if you pay attention you'll see early indications that problems are developing. Here are some of the warning signs that seniors finances may be off track:

1. Post is piling up unopened in their house.

Take a look around the house; Are there stacks of unsorted post? What about piles of statements from mortgage or credit card companies, utilities, notices from the Internal Revenue Service, or other unopened envelopes that appear to be bills?

As people get older, the monthly chores of paying bills may become mentally or physically overwhelming, especially if money is tight because they're on a fixed income or if they're slowing down cognitively. Stacks of unopened mail -- especially bills -- can be an important warning sign that something is incorrect.

2. They seem to be mishandling money or forgetful about cash.

When you're out to eat, does the person you're caring for open their wallet, only to be surprised that they don't have enough money to pay for something? Do you see checks or unopened mail from pension funds, insurance companies, or Social Security hiding in piles of paperwork or lost among the household clutter?

These can both be early signs that they aren’t paying close attention to their money situations. They may be physically unable to make the daily or weekly trips to the ATM or bank branch to deposit checks and take out cash, or they may be getting increasingly forgetful about his day-to-day financial dealings.

3. Creditors are showing up in the phone logs.

The phone offers a quick and easy way to check to see whether creditors are contacting -- or harassing -- the person in your care. Check the caller ID logs and keep track of any increase in phone calls from new numbers that may be bill collectors. You may also notice repeated phone calls from credit card companies or household help, such as gardeners or house cleaners looking for back wages.

4. You see or hear evidence that they're falling victim to financial scams.

Take another look at the mail pile and caller ID logs. Do you see many junk-mail catalogues from unfamiliar companies, sweepstakes mailings, solicitations for investment schemes, or vacation home offers? What about frequent or repeated phone calls from unfamiliar numbers? Or has someone you're caring for excitedly told you about a surefire, can't-miss investment scheme he heard about from a neighbour?

Older adults can be especially vulnerable to scam artists and shady telemarketers -- or even well-meaning friends who have already fallen prey to this kind of scheme -- not only because they often have significant assets but also because they may be lonely or may welcome the attention. Those older adults who are starting to have memory problems are especially vulnerable to scams.

5. They're complaining about not having enough money.

Does the subject of money come up in conversation more than it used to? Do they make more passing references to the high costs of living expenses like gas, electricity, and groceries? You may also see more subtle signs that money is tight -- they may decline invitations to go out to eat with friends because of the cost, make fewer car trips because of high gas prices, and skip home fixes like house painting and furnace or appliance repairs. All of these can be signs that their expenses are too much for them to deal with on their own.

6. They seem physically unable to complete daily tasks like banking and bill paying.

Tasks that once seemed ordinary can become unmanageable if their physical or mental state is deteriorating. The weekly trip to the ATM may be no big deal to you, but if they have vision problems that prevent them from driving or health issues that keep them from long walks, it may be hard for them to make it to the bank on a regular basis.

Likewise, paying bills by mail can become burdensome if arthritis makes writing checks and addressing envelopes painful. Pay attention to their general health, and you'll likely be able to keep tabs on their financial health as well.

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