As seniors begin to age, chances are they are faced with several new challenges, including some they never thought they would have to deal with. One of the biggest problems that many seniors come face-to-face with in their older years is finances. The rising cost of care, medical expenses and the fact that seniors are now living longer than ever can make it difficult to plan for retirement and to manage that retirement money. This is why more seniors than ever are struggling with financial issues.
Many studies have found that financial decline and aging often go hand-in-hand and the older that many seniors get, the more difficult it becomes for them to manage their money the right way. Because of this, family members, loved ones and caregivers need to pay close attention to how aging can impact a senior's ability to manage their finances.
Without proper financial management, many seniors will begin to have issues as they age. Poor financial management can cause serious health issues and impact a senior's quality of life. Planning ahead is one of the best ways to prevent these issues from happening, but many times seniors keep their financial struggles hidden.
Many seniors are embarrassed to admit they are having trouble managing their finances. There are other seniors who are worried that someone else will step in and control their money and take away their autonomy and independence. There are others who simply do not realize the financial predicament they have put themselves in. This is why loved ones should always be on the lookout for some of the warning signs of financial decline in seniors. Here are some of the top things to look for that may signal a growing problem.
- It is taking longer for seniors to complete their everyday financial obligations.
- Whether it is confusion about counting change, problems managing the balance of their accounts, or the inability to write a check for a bill, when seniors take longer than usual to complete their everyday tasks this is a sign that something is going on. Maybe they keep accidentally overdrawing their account, or everyday financial management seems difficult. The longer these everyday tasks take, the more likely a problem is forming.
- The inability to do everyday math.
- When a senior can no longer do everyday math on their own, it may be a sign of a problem. This may not seem serious at first, but it can lead to issues down the road. Seniors may be struggling with other problems such as dementia that render them unable to understand the basics of math and money. They may try to pay for something with too little money or give away an exorbitant amount of money to a family member or charitable organization.
- Failure to pay proper attention to financial documents.
- When seniors no longer pay attention to bank statements or other accounts, it may be a sign that there is a more serious problem forming. This can come from a lack of interest or a problem with the financial documents becoming too confusing or overwhelming for the senior to understand. Either way, when the senior is not paying attention to their finances, it may be a sign it is time to step in.
- A noticeable decline in a senior's credit score.
- When a senior’s credit score declines significantly it can be a clear sign that they are having difficulty budgeting and paying bills. For example, they may have enough money to make payments on a credit card account but fail to do so due to losing the bill or simply paying it late. Alternately, a credit score decline could indicate that a senior is spending beyond their means and is having trouble making payments on their accounts as a result.
- Problems in understanding basic financial concepts.
- Whether a senior fails to understand that a savings account is not for everyday spending, or if they don't understand that money must come into an account before it can be spent, in many cases seniors start to have issues understanding basic financial concepts. This is typically a warning sign that someone needs to step in. Many times, this type of problem will include difficulty in identifying the risks in a financial opportunity. For example, they may start signing up for every credit card offer they get or making bizarre investments.
Along with these warning signs, it is important to understand the risks that come with this type of financial decline. While many seniors who experience issues with financial decline are those with Alzheimer's or dementia, this is not the case in every situation. There are many seniors without these cognitive impairments who struggle with financial decline. However, for those who are suffering from Alzheimer's and related ailments, financial management is often one of the first skills that they have problems with.
Unfortunately, there are many people, including both friends and family members as well as strangers, who will try to take advantage of seniors because they know so many aging adults are dealing with financial decline. Financial abuse is a very serious issue in the senior community, so it is important to do whatever is possible to protect seniors who are showing signs of financial challenges. Even the most unexpected of sources such as spouses, children and loved ones can take advantage of seniors and their money when they are unable to take responsibility on their own.
Caregivers and loved ones who do notice these signs of decline should step in when they can and try to help seniors with their financial responsibilities. In some situations, seniors will be willing to accept help. However, in other situations seniors may not let someone step in and help them. In these situations, there is typically nothing that the family can do legally to take over their loved one's finances, unless they are physically or mentally unable to do the job on their own.
When these potential signs and symptoms do arise, one of the best things that family members and loved ones can do is to take their loved one to the doctor to see if issues with dementia are present. Signs of an inability to manage finances is typically one of the first warning signs of dementia; this financial decline may be indicative of a larger problem that is forming. Either way, when financial issues start to arise in seniors, the more that loved ones can do to protect these seniors and their finances, the better off they will be.