June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. I continue to be saddened by the many different ways that elders can be taken advantage of. Financial abuse is one of the types identified, included with physical and emotional abuse as well as with neglect.
There are some telltale signs that your parent may be having difficulties managing their own finances. The obvious signs are easy to spot, including unpaid bills, piles of unopened mail and calls from creditors. Other indicators, such as large or inappropriate purchases (which are outside their norm) or the purchase of duplicate items may also be signs worth exploring. I had one client who had purchased 15 sets of sheets for a single bed, even though she slept in a double bed!
Finances for many, are a very private matter- so your parent may not tell you if they are having difficulties. There are several things you can do to minimize their financial responsibilities including arranging for bills to be on a direct debit system. They may be receptive to having on line banking set up, which can provide an opportunity to review their expenses with them. Reviewing how many credit cards are in their wallet is also beneficial as often one or two will often suffice. Replacing a credit card with one that is on a separate account and has a lower spending limit, is another option to consider.
We may not all be good money managers- which is an issue for us at any age. However, illness or cognitive decline may occur at any time which may well impact on financial matters. For many widows who never had responsibility for their own money management as it had been handled by their spouse, it can easily become overwhelming. Many individuals appoint a bank or other financial institution to be their Attorney for Property, which will safeguard their finances. Lesson learned: Be proactive and aware before there is a problem.
Have concerns? Get in touch: Elder Abuse Ontario and the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.