Assessing A Loved One's Finances

Some questions to ask if you’re concerned about your loved one’s ability to manage money.

Organizations that serve the elderly are aware of the great need that many seniors have for financial assistance. Yet, it is you, as the caregiver, who will most likely be the one to assess whether your loved one needs help managing money.

So, how do you know if your loved one needs assistance managing finances? The questions below should help you decide. Answering “no” to the following questions may indicate that your loved one has a greater need for such assistance. Keep your loved one’s past financial behavior in mind, however. If, for example, he or she has never used credit cards in a responsible manner, the inability to do so now doesn’t necessarily indicate a decline in you loved one’s abilities.

  • Does your loved one:
  • Adhere to his or her monthly budget?
  • Keep track of deposits made?
  • Make repayment plans for existing debts?
  • Monitor his or her income and expenses?
  • Organize or keep track of financial or medical papers?
  • Use credit cards in a responsible fashion?

Answering “yes” to any of the following questions may also indicate that your loved one has difficulty managing money. Again, keep your loved one’s past behavior in mind when evaluating the situation.

Does your loved one:

  • Make inappropriate payments (e.g., double payment of medical bills)?
  • Routinely fail to pay his or her bills on time?
  • Routinely bounce checks?
  • Have difficulty saying no to charities, even when he or she cannot afford to make a contribution?
  • Have difficulty writing checks or keeping a checkbook balanced?
  • Have difficulty understanding financial or medical statements?

Additionally, there are some signs that probably indicate that your loved one needs immediate financial assistance, including:

  • Being threatened with eviction
  • Suddenly changing his or her financial habits
  • Suddenly becoming more secretive about his or her finances
  • Making consistent payments to another individual for reasons other than services provided (may indicate financial exploitation)
  • Making consistent or large payments to an unidentifiable company, which is often in another state (indicating financial exploitation)
  • Having his/her utilities cut off

After answering the above questions, you probably have a better idea about whether your loved one needs financial assistance. If he or she does need help, it’s important to speak with your loved one about your concerns. In doing so, you should remember that your loved one’s personal independence is most likely directly linked to his or her financial independence. Be clear in your concerns, and offer multiple options for financial help so that your loved one has a chance to participate as much as possible in managing his or her money.

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