Caregivers: When to Take Over Your Parent's Finances

  • April 10, 2019
Caregivers: When to Take Over Your Parent's Finances

Keeping your loved one healthy, safe, and comfortable are often what we think about when talking about caring for an aging parent, but there is also a financial component that can come along with being a family caregiver. Sometimes, your loved one might surrender their financial responsibilities over to you willingly. Other times, however, you might need to make a recommendation based on warning signs you notice.

Signs Your Parent Needs Financial Help

If you haven’t already broached the conversation, talking about managing an elderly parent’s finances can be an incredibly stressful topic. It’s easy to put it off, but if these red flags arise, the conversation about helping elderly parents with finances has to happen sooner rather than later.

  • Erratic Spending. If you notice that your loved one has been doing a lot of online shopping for things they don’t typically buy or have signed up for sweepstakes and contests, this is a warning sign. Unnecessary shopping sprees usually signify some deeper emotional issue going on, while sweepstakes or contest sign-ups can leave your loved one vulnerable to scams.

  • Bill Pileup And Overdue Accounts. If you notice that your loved one has a pile of unpaid bills, or has gotten notices about a utility potentially being turned off due to overdue payments, it could be time to start helping your elderly parents with their finances.

  • Anxiety About Running Out of Money. It’s normal for older adults to have some worries about outliving their money, but when it becomes a constant source of anxiety, it’s time to make a change. If your conversations with your loved one always seem to focus on their money concerns, it is time to chat with them about managing their finances.

  • Chronic Health Problems. Health issues, such as fading vision, arthritis, and Parkinson’s Disease, can make it challenging to hold a pen to sign checks. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic health issue, helping to manage their finances can provide them with both a physical and emotional sense of ease.

  • Cognitive Decline. Even in the early stages, age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can make it difficult to remember dates and which bills are due when. If you notice any symptoms of memory loss or dementia, it’s a good time to start managing your elderly parents’ finances.

Of course, you don’t need warning signs to have a conversation about helping your elderly parents with their finances. Being proactive about financial and medical planning for your aging parent could save you time, money, and stress in the long-run.

Managing Elderly Parent's Finances

Managing elderly parent's finances can be complicated if it is not approached in the right way. Here are some things to consider to help you have a more successful conversation with your parent.

  1. Start the conversation early. Ideally, starting to talk about finances with your aging parent should happen before they have a pressing need or medical emergency. Bringing up the possibility of helping elderly parents with finances is best when your loved one has full capacity and knowledge about what is going on and can make the right decisions with you about how to move forward.

  1. Be transparent with the rest of the family. If you have been designated the family caregiver and you are unilaterally making decisions for your parent, it’s recommended to keep the rest of your family—especially siblings—in the loop. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page about what will happen and cut down on potential misunderstandings.

  1. Transition slowly. If you have the conversation early—before there is a crisis to respond to—you have the luxury of transitioning your parent out of dealing with their own finances gradually. This can not only help them get used to the idea of having someone else manage their money, but it can also help you become more comfortable with the new situation as well.

  1. Get organized. An important part of the process is making sure that you have access to all of the information that your parent might store in their head, or scattered around on a variety of documents. You’ll need to make a comprehensive list of bank account numbers, account numbers, online usernames and passwords, insurance policies, social security numbers, and legal documents in order to take control of your loved one’s financial situation. It also helps to know what you can shred and what you should save as you physically go through all of your parent’s financial files.

  1. Make it official. To make sure that there is no room for confusion, you should legalize the situation with your loved one. As a family caregiver who handles financial, and potentially medical decisions for your parent, you should talk to a lawyer about legally having Power of Attorney for your parent. This will allow you to legally make financial and medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf without intervention from anyone else.

Getting The Support You Need

Making a decision to begin managing your elderly parent's finances, can take a toll on your stress levels. Be sure to seek the support that you need in order to prevent caregiver burnout. Whether you also choose to find respite care services for your loved one or invest in a medical alert device, it’s important to find ways to increase your peace of mind during well-deserved caregiving breaks. After all, if you don’t have your health, how can you serve as the family caregiver for your loved one?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hilary Young is a health and wellness expert that specializes in both senior life and caregiving. She'd love to hear more about your thoughts on aging, healthy living, and caregiving, and you can find her on Twitter at @hyoungcreative to start the conversation.


KEYWORDS: Helping elderly parents with finances, managing elderly parents finances, family caregiver