About 37% of active caregivers said the senior they care for has experienced financial abuse. Experts say loved ones must talk often to spot trouble before seniors lose thousands of dollars are lost.
As we host holiday dinners or visit more frequently with elderly parents and relatives, sometimes we spot signs that a loved one's financial decision-making has been declining.
Maybe it's constant talk about winning the lottery. Maybe it's a garage full of unopened boxes from QVC. Maybe it's a much smaller checking account balance than you'd expect for retirees who have a fairly good pension.
"You don't have to reach the level of dementia before your financial decision-making is impacted," said Peter A. Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Lichtenberg has created a Financial Decision Screening Scale that's being used by professionals who work with seniors to discuss their financial decisions.
Did they buy a new car? Put a new roof on the house? Buy a condo for a daughter to live in nearby?
The survey asks a series of additional questions: Was this your idea or did someone suggest it or accompany you? What was the goal when you made the move with your money?
How much risk to your financial well-being is involved? Who benefits most from the financial decision? You? Your family? A caregiver? A friend?
To what extent did you talk with anyone regarding this decision?
The idea is to start out by having a general conversation about goals and challenges that older consumers are facing. No one wants to be put on the defensive about how they're spending their money. But the general list of questions can help people engage in a conversation and set a baseline.
"There seems to be something about financial decision-making that really is sensitive to early declines," Lichtenberg said.
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Holiday visits can uncover elder financial exploitation