Ways To Support the Older Adult's Financial Decisions


Solutions that support the older adult's control of financial matters include:

  • Understanding how the older adult wants to be involved

  • Learning how the older adult makes financial decisions

  • Encouraging the older adult to make legal arrangements

Understanding how the older adult wants to be involved

Ask how the older adult manages finance now. Are there changes the older adult wants to make?


Is the older adult taking over financial tasks for an ill or deceased spouse or partner?


People in this situation often welcome help, since they may not have managed finances for years, if ever.


If the older adult wants help, ask what financial tasks others could take on. Ask who the older adult trusts and feels comfortable asking to help.


You or others should only help with the financial tasks that the older adult doesn't want to or can't do. Sometimes, people who are helping try to do too much, leaving older adults feeling that others don't respect their decisions or privacy.


There are many ways to help with financial tasks. For example:

  • The older adult manages finances and shares information about legal and financial arrangements with family or others close to them.

  • The older adult manages finances, and meets with financial advisors or discusses big decisions with family or others close to them.

  • The older adult manages finances while others simplify tasks by setting up direct deposits, automatic bill pay or other arrangements.

  • The older adult manages finances and others drive them to their bank or credit union.

  • The older adult makes financial decisions, and others help keep track of expenses and make sure bills are paid on time.

Talk to healthcare and legal professionals if it's unclear whether the older adult is able to make financial or property decisions.


Learning how the older adult makes financial decisions

Major financial decisions later in life often involve housing, health, home care or transportation needs.


Ask how the older adult would make financial decisions in one or more of these areas. For example:

  • Does the older adult have insurance, benefits or savings to help pay for these needs?

  • Has the older adult made legal arrangements about how to pay for or make decisions about meeting these needs?

  • How would the older adult want to meet these needs - for example, with family help, with paid help, through community programs or by moving to more supportive housing like assisted living? What doesn't the older adult like about the other options?

  • If the older adult had to choose between two not-perfect options, would they decide based on cost, convenience, independence, time, who's involved, advice from professionals, recommendations from friends, or something else?

To better understand the older adult's values and priorities, ask about a major financial decision, like buying a car or home. Discuss:

  • Who the older adult asked for advice

  • How the older adult got information about and compared options

  • Whether features, quality, cost, convenience, brand, recommendations, style or something else was most important or why

  • Whether it was a difficult or easy decision and why

  • Whether the older adult would make the same decision today and why

Tell the older adult that if you understand their decisions, you can focus on what's most important.

Encouraging the older adult to make legal arrangements

Legal documents explain how someone wants to make financial, property, healthcare and end-of-life decisions. Having this information helps families avoid confusion, stress and conflict.

Ask if the older adult has these basic legal documents:

  • Will

  • Power of attorney for finances

  • Power of attorney for healthcare or advance directive

If not - and if you don't have them, either - look into drawing up legal documents at the same time as the older adult does.


If the older adult already has legal documents, ask if someone else has copies or knows where to find them, in case of an emergency.


Ask if the older adult has shared copies of their healthcare directive or advance directive documents with their primary health professional. Health professionals use this information to understand their patients' priorities and provide care that reflects those priorities.