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tips for caregivers: Managing finances

It's not easy talking to your older loved one about their personal finances, and even more difficult to help them realize that it may be time to turn the reins over to you or another caregiver. Avoiding the conversation, though, can lead to unnecessary stress and unwarranted headaches later on, and can leave your loved one open to financial exploitation. So how do you start the conversation? And what should you say? Here are a few tips:

  1. Just ask. Use a direct approach and ask your loved one if they are having any problems paying bills? How are they managing investments or rental properties? How are finances holding out? Are they having any problems paying for things? If any red flags pup up, resist the urge to immediately jump in and solve the problem. Your loved one may see that as a threat to their independence. Instead, help your loved one work it out for themselves, especially if it's a minor financial issue.

  2. Afraid to bring up financial topics directly? You can get the conversation going by talking about your own finances or how frustrated you are with all the telemarketing calls you get, or come up a hypothetical situation addressing an area of concern, or share a story you read in the newspaper about senior finances.

  3. If it is clear your loved one is no longer able to make financial decisions on their own—for example, bills are not being paid, new magazine subscriptions are piling up, and checks are being written to multiple charities your loved one never gave to in the past—you might consider seeking a financial power of attorney.

  4. If you are handling your loved one's financial matters, make sure you are aware of all financial assets. This obviously includes checking, savings and retirement accounts, but also may include real estate; pensions and annuities; stocks, bonds and investments; life insurance and prepaid funeral policies; jewelry or precious metals; or antiques and hobby-based collectibles that can be monetized.

  5. Leave a paper trail. If you are writing checks from your loved one's account on their behalf or managing any finances for them, keep a well-organized and well-documented record of all transactions.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.