Solutions to address your concerns about the older adult's finances include:
- Finding financial resources
- Estimating costs and planning
- Addressing changes in financial decision-making
- Getting professional help
Finding Financial Resources
Agencies that work with older adults often provide or connect people to services that help meet financial and other needs.
Contact the local Aging and Disability Resource Center or Aging Unit, Senior Center or Area Agency on Aging to ask what's available in the older adult's area. Contact the local,
county or tribal government to find out who can answer questions about Social Security, Medicare, health insurance and other public and private benefits.
Look up programs that can help with financial tasks and needs, such as:
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and Tax Counseling for the Elderly, for help preparing income taxes
- Social Security's Representative Payment Program or the Department of Veteran Affairs' Fiduciary Program, for help with managing another person's benefits
- Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (help line 844-574-3577), for information about brokerage accounts, statements and investments
- Family Caregiver Support Program and Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program, for support with expenses related to helping older adults
- State Medicaid offices, for programs offering financial support to older adults and the people who help them
- National Center for Elder Abuse or local Adult Protective Services office, for information about preventing and reporting suspected financial exploitation or other types of abuse
Estimating Costs and Planning
Work with the older adult to estimate how costs might change. Questions to discuss include:
- If the older adult is making a decision, what are the initial and ongoing costs of each option? Will any option reduce costs? For example, stopping driving might reduce gas, insurance and other car costs by more than the total for bus and taxi rides.
- If the older adult is making a decision, could insurance, public or private benefits, community programs, or help from family and friends reduce the cost of any option?
- What are the older adult's current expenses? Have they held steady, increased or decreased over the past few years?
- Are there changes that the older adult is able to make to reduce expenses?
- What activities, health or care needs does the older adult get help with now? How much does getting that help cost?
- Are any of the older adult's health issues, conditions or care needs likely to get worse? Encourage the older adult to ask their health professionals, too.
- What resources does the older adult have to cover health, care, housing, food, transportation and other costs? These could be public and private benefits, help from family and friends, income, savings, investments, community programs, and health, life and long-term care insurance.
- How long could the older adult's funds cover any out-of-pocket costs? If the older adult is making a decision, how much will each option add to out-of-pocket costs?
- What is important and worth the cost to the older adult? When are lower-cost options acceptable?
- Is the older adult's ability to access programs, benefits, insurance, funds or other help likely to change?
The federal website LongTermCare.Gov lists average cost under "Costs & How to Pay: Costs of Care." It also includes long-term care planning tips and links to average costs by state.
Professionals can help develop a more detailed financial plan.
Ask if the older adult has done financial planning. If not, ask if the older adult would like to
talk with a financial advisor. If the older adult is about to make a major decision or change, discuss how financial planning could help. Offer to look up financial advisors in the area, if the older adult is interested.
Addressing Changes in Financial Decision-Making
Older adults' financial decision-making might change for a number of reasons.
If the older adult starts making financial decisions that are surprising, ask about them. Say that while the older adult has the right to decide, what you know concerns you.
Acknowledge that you might not see the whole picture.
Ask other people close to the older adult if they've noticed any changes.
If you have access to the older adult's bank or credit card statements, check them for unusual activity. When you visit the older adult, look for signs of possible financial exploitation, like notices of unpaid bills, missing valuables, or lots of junk mail or phone calls. Encourage the older adult to request free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.Com, to make sure accounts are secure.
If you think the older adult might be at risk of financial exploitation, contact local law enforcement, county adult protective services or the state's elder abuse hotline. Report your concerns. You don't need proof of financial exploitation. The authorities will investigate.
Ask if the older adult would like help with financial tasks, like paying bills or balancing accounts.
Ask when the older adult last saw their primary health professional. If the older adult acts like they're having trouble seeing, hearing or understanding things, or seems depressed or anxious, encourage the older adult to see a health professional. Changes in behavior, judgment or memory can be caused by medications, stress, lack of sleep, treatable health issues or serious conditions like dementia.
Getting Professional Help
There are different professionals who help with financial tasks. Ask if the older adult would like to:
- Make budgets or financial plans, which accountants and financial advisors can help with
- Find local resources, which social workers and case managers can help with
- Make or update legal documents, which lawyers can help with
- Manage investments or other assets, which brokers, financial advisors, real estate agents and appraisers can help with
- Protect against or report financial exploitation, which financial advisors, investment advisors, lawyers, bankers, accountants, law enforcement and adult protective services specialists can help with
- Address conflicts and misunderstandings, which social workers can help with
When looking for professional help:
- Ask the older adult to describe the work they want the professional to do.
- Ask relatives, friends and other professionals for recommendations.
- Ask about and check the professional's credentials. Find out which government agency oversees professionals in their field. Check with the agency to make sure the professional's license or registration is current. Ask if there have been complaints against the professional.
- Interview the professional, together with the older adult if possible. Ask about their experience overall and with work similar to what the older adult needs.
- If you are paying for services, ask the professional for a written proposed plan of work and cost estimate. Carefully review contracts before signing.