As your loved one ages, they may begin to make unnecessary or overly expensive purchases. Even worse, they could fall victim to scams. Such incidents may not be due to individually poor shopping habits or gullibility, but a sign of declining cognitive function. A MetLife study estimated that seniors lose approximately $2.6 billion per year, and the problem is growing worse with time. Unscrupulous salespeople and scam artists have learned to target seniors as easy prey.
Poor financial decisions and financial abuse are often two sides of the same coin: weakening cognitive ability. Aberrations in purchasing or scam victimization may increase if the mental decline is rooted in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Here are some red-flag indicators that your loved one’s declining mental ability may necessitate professional senior care:
- Increasing dependence on another to explain everyday matters
- Trouble paying bills by oneself or an increase in unpaid bills, even when financial resources exist
- Growing inability to understand or manage property and home maintenance
- Inability understanding their own finances or financial advice
- Ongoing alcohol dependency or drug abuse
- Odd behavior or delusions
- Changes in appearance, upkeep, and poor hygiene
- Difficulty with medication management
- Growing inability to use navigational skills, especially in a new or different environment
Financial fraud is perpetrated upon the elderly in many ways. Here are the most common:
- Telemarketing, especially for purchase of worthless goods or donations to fake charities
- Identity theft via calls pretending to be from a credit card company/bank
- Internet fraud using “phishing” schemes to ‘update’ or ‘verify’ personal information
- Home repair/contractor fraud
- Fake lotteries or sweepstakes
- Fraudulent health insurance and Medicare matters
Keep in mind that issues of fraud are common. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2014, approximately 2.6 million seniors experienced some form of identity theft, which increased from 2.1 million in 2012. This same study indicated that approximately 14 percent of these victims “experienced out-of-pocket losses” from the use of “existing…credit card or bank account information.” In America, an estimated 10,000 seniors a day fall for fraud schemes.
If you can monitor transactions in your loved one’s daily life, be aware of these matters in particular. Also, go shopping with your parent for groceries and anything else they need to help them avoid sporadic or reckless spending. Use accounting software through your parent’s bank or via software available online that can help you and your parent budget responsibly. When it comes to scams, teach your parent to hang up on robocalls, avoid free trial offers, and be suspicious of unknown callers by using caller ID. However, these are just a few preliminary measures. Your parent may need more oversight or constant care than you can provide.
Financial irresponsibility is not always a matter of naiveté or credulity, but instead an inability to think carefully and rationalize clearly. Diminishing cognitive function may well be a perpetrator. Despite the unfortunate, irreversible challenge of cognitive impairment, you can accomplish positive changes in your parent’s health and gain peace of mind about their finances. It’s possible to avoid a financial spiral or cruel swindle that wipes out a loved one’s savings.
If you note financial anomalies, seek help right away. Ask a Senior Living Advisor (SLA) about Memory Care options in a senior living community. A healthy and secure environment for your loved one will offer even greater relief than attempts to monitor their spending habits yourself. To see if the time is right for Memory Care, or simply to examine your options, please have a talk with an OurParents SLA right away.
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