Six Signs a Senior Loved One Is Struggling with Finances (and How to Help)

As people age, financial struggles can develop. By knowing the red flags of financial troubles, you–as a caregiver, loved one, or friend–can take action if necessary. Here are some of the signs to look for and tips for how you can help.

Signs Your Senior Loved One Is Struggling with Finances

  1. Cleanliness Issues

One surprising way to determine if your senior loved one might be struggling with finances is cleanliness issues. At times, hygiene issues are a sign of cognitive decline. For example, Verywell Health notes that individuals with dementia may forget to bathe or change clothing.

Look for signs that your loved one is having trouble maintaining his/her hygiene or home. If that’s the case, it could be safe to assume that personal finances are also in disarray.

  1. Unopened Mail

If your loved one is letting unopened mail pile up, there’s a chance finances are in trouble. This is especially true if he/she does not receive electronic statements and the untouched mail is clearly not junk.

  1. Memory Issues

SeniorsBlueBook points out that forgetfulness is another potential sign of cognitive decline. If your loved one has trouble remembering appointments, events, or household responsibilities, he/she is likely having issues keeping finances on track.

  1. Utility Disconnects

When a person does not pay bills, the ramifications are not always immediately apparent to outsiders. It often takes time to process an eviction or repossession. Similarly, creditors may have little recourse for unsecured debts, but to move to collections.

However, utility disconnections are relatively swift. In some cases, utility shutoffs can occur just 30 or 60 days after a missed payment, depending on local regulations. Given this, a utility disconnection can signify a broader financial issue.

  1. Collection Calls

While collection calls are an obvious sign of trouble, it is not an easy thing for someone living outside of a household to spot. This is particularly true because debt collection scams are pervasive, making it difficult for someone not fully apprised of your loved one’s financial situation to determine if a call is legitimate without engaging with the caller.

However, if you happen to overhear a debt collection calls it is a potential sign of trouble. At a minimum, it is a reason to initiate a conversation with your loved one about the situation.

  1. Strange Spending

A variety of spending patterns could indicate that your senior loved one is having difficulties managing money. A new habit of buying items from infomercials could indicate a problem. Similarly, buying the same thing repeatedly (beyond food, household goods, or other items that classically need restocking) could be a red flag, too.

Large wire transfers or piles of gift cards are also warning signs. They could indicate your loved one is falling for financial scams, making them financially vulnerable.

What to Do If Your Senior Loved One Is Struggling with Finances

If your senior loved one is seemingly struggling with finances, take immediate action. Start by gathering financial information. Request to review his/her bank statements, bills, and budget. Compare transactions with current bills to see if payments are being timely made and review checking, savings, and retirement account balances to see if they are lower than expected.

After this initial research, you can decide if further steps are necessary. For instance, you may need to get a financial power of attorney (POA) to act on your loved one’s behalf. With a POA, you can arrange bill payments, monitor spending, and otherwise ensure there is not future financial risk.

In some cases, setting up grocery deliveries for your loved one could be a wise move. You would also have control over food spending, making it easier to keep to a budget. You could also ensure that fresh ingredients and necessary household items are arriving regularly.

If your loved one is behind on payments and getting collection calls, it is also wise to learn about debt collection rules, protections, and processes. There are limits to what debt collectors can do or say, both at the federal and state levels. By knowing your loved one’s rights, you can potentially intervene if the need arises.

If your senior loved one is struggling with finances and owns a business, selling the company could be necessary if operating the business safely is no longer possible. Before selling, get a professional business valuation to get an objective perspective on the company’s value. Ensure the valuation includes all of the business assets, including real estate and inventory.

Consider Downsizing and Moving Into a Rental

It may also be time for your senior loved one to downsize and move into a smaller home, as this can be a big money saver in the long run. Less square footage means lower utility bills, and if moving into an apartment or condo, your loved one will not have to pay for regular maintenance like lawn service. The proceeds from the sale of a larger home will likely result in some funds that can be used to pay down or pay off outstanding debts. Research the local area to deterimine what houses are on the market and the rates of monthly rents. You will currently find many available properties for rent in Rochester, so there are ample choices in price, square footage, and neighborhoods. You may also consider a move into an independent living community like St. John’s Meadows or Brickstone by St. John’s.

Look for the above signs of financial issues and work to help your senior loved one overcome them. Remember to look for things like unopened mail and collection calls and consider solutions like downsizing to a rental property. They will soon be in better financial shape and will have done your part to help.

Submitted by Andrea Needham

Image courtesy of Pexels

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