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7 Warning Signs Your Parents Might Need Help with Finances

In the back of our minds, we know that our parents will eventually need help. They may not be able to drive at night anymore, or they may need assistance going up and down the stairs. These are things we think about and expect. But one thing we might not expect is for our parents to no longer be able to handle their finances. 

“We’re trained to see the warning signs for physical and mental decline in older people, but we aren’t well-prepped to see warning signs that a senior’s finances aren’t in order,” says Kristine Tilton, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. Part of it, she says, is that adult children simply can be purposefully blind to the warning signs because they simply don’t want to believe their parents are declining. But it’s also in part to the fact that many people, even those who are young and healthy, can have issues managing their finances. 

“Being financially savvy isn’t necessarily a skill that improves with age, and it’s something that can quickly become a huge problem if people aren’t paying attention,” says Kristine. “It’s important for adult children and loved ones of senior adults to recognize warning signs so they can step in before an issue becomes a huge problem.”

Why Does Financial Acuity Decline? 

There are many different reasons why a senior can lose control of their finances. It could be due to illness or a side effect of a medication they’re taking. It could also be due to the simple fact of aging. According to a study done by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, financial capacity decreases as we age, particularly for women. Depression and loss of a loved one could also be issues, or it could be because your parents don’t have a lot of money but are too proud to tell you about their problems. 

Unfortunately, another reason why parents may be having difficulty with finances is due to scammers and other unsavory tactics. According to the FTC, 80 percent of those taken in by telemarketing scams are seniors. Older adults who may not be as savvy with technology can also be taken in by spam emails, phishing, “love scams” (where a scammer acts as a love interest for the senior) and other tactics that simply weren’t around “back in the day.”

Warning Signs That Your Parents Need Help

1. Mounds of unopened mail and bills.

The next time you’re at your parent’s house, take a look around to see what the mail situation looks like. Are there piles of unopened bills by the telephone? Is there unsorted mail scattered around the counter? Are you seeing envelopes that say “Final Notice” from the utility companies? This can be a sign that your loved one is being affected by some sort of memory issue or is simply becoming overwhelmed by financial responsibility. 

2. They’re receiving calls from creditors around the clock. 

Caller ID services can allow you to see who’s been in contact with your elderly parents. Are you seeing a number of calls from new numbers? Or are there repeat calls from service providers? An increase in calls from collection agencies and such can be a sign that your parents are struggling to keep up with bills. 

3. Your parent is spending money left and right.

Your parents probably have a retirement fund in place, and they may be treating themselves more and more frequently. However, if your senior parent is suddenly spending a lot of money on things or splurging on, say, a new car or fancy appliances, you should take a closer look. Impulse purchases, especially large splurges, could be an indication of memory loss or impaired judgment. 

4. They’re having trouble with day-to-day tasks. 

As we age, easy and regular tasks can quickly become unmanageable. This holds true for financials as well as things like maintaining the house or doing laundry. Paying bills can become difficult if your parent has a hard time writing checks or navigating online bill pay. If your parent’s home is starting to become unkempt, it’s possible that their bank accounts are suffering, as well. 

5. They’re mishandling money.

If your parents have always been fairly conscientious about their spending habits but all of a sudden they’re having credit cards declined, this could be a sign that they’re having mental difficulties (such as forgetting to pay bills) or having a hard time keeping up with financial matters. 

6. They’re complaining about not having enough money. 

Are your parents turning down trips or evenings out because, as they say, they don’t have enough money? It’s possible that they’re experiencing difficulties that they’ve never had to face before. Another indication is if their home is in disrepair – this could signal they don’t have enough money on hand to handle these expenses. 

7. They’re throwing up red flags that they’re being scammed or defrauded. 

As we mentioned before, seniors make up the majority of people who are scammed by telemarketers and other unsavory characters. Sweepstakes, opportunities to “invest” and vacation home offers are just a few of the ways scammers can take advantage of lonely, trusting older adults. If your parents are talking about new investments, winning or coming into a large chunk of money or anything else that seems strange, it’s worth investigating. 

What Can I Do?

How can you notice these issues before they become huge problems? One of the best things you can do is to stay involved in your parents’ lives and take a genuine interest in what they do, who they see and what their daily lives are like. This gives you an opportunity to listen, learn and observe the comings-and-goings with your folks. Here are some things you can also do:

  • Appoint a financial power of attorney well in advance of any issues
  • Add Mom or Dad to the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Be available to help them with questions, money management or anything else
  • Look out for excessive or unneeded purchases
  • Remember that it’s still your parents’ money – so as long as they're competent and not hurting themselves, your goal is to help them remain that way for as long as possible. 

For more information about financial health for seniors, please contact us at 781.235.1614.

Beautiful Riverfront Community

Located on the banks of the Charles River, Waterstone is Wellesley’s only senior living community, offering premier independent and assisted living. But that’s only the first of many differences that sets Waterstone above and beyond other communities. 

Celebrating Dynamic Living

Here our residents live independently in their own private, spacious apartments – but without any of the worries or concerns of homeownership or living alone. All meals are expertly prepared. There aren’t any chores to be concerned with. No home maintenance or repairs to worry about. Just opportunities around every corner and time to spend as they choose – in the company of new friends.

Our vibrant community encourages residents to engage in a variety of recreational, cultural and social programs and activities. Enjoy a fitness class. Swim in the sunny indoor pool. Take a stroll on a walking path. Partake in a favorite hobby or pastime. Discover a new interest. With Waterstone at Wellesley, there’s a world of opportunity waiting right outside our residents’ doors. 

Confidence of Care

The hallmark of Waterstone assisted living is the peace of mind we provide both our residents and their families. Knowing that care and support is available right on site instills a sense of confidence and calm one can’t find living alone. 

For prospective residents or their families interested in residing at Waterstone at Wellesley, please contact us at 781.235.1614.