Recently, I read a blog post on Forbes about a story of a woman whose father kept making poor money decisions. The woman was reluctant to cut off her father, and didn’t really understand the steps it took to keep her father from being ripped off by those who were perpetuating financial elder abuse on her father.

The unfortunate truth is that there are no laws against your aging parents making poor financial decisions. My grandfather continually cashed checks from various sources. Unfortunately, these checks represented an “agreement” to have a certain amount of money withdrawn from his account each month.

After talking with the bank in question, and after my uncle the lawyer sent letters to those sending the checks, things got under control, and my grandparents’ financial situation was mostly preserved, and my grandmother, a few years after my grandfather’s death, can afford to live comfortably.

Watch for Signs of Financial Problems

It’s important to watch for signs of financial problems in your parents and grandparents before it’s too late. You probably don’t like the idea of telling your aging parents that they need to help with their finances, but the reality is that, at some point, they will need that help.

You need to set the stage for this situation if you can. It’s important to meet with siblings, and come up with a plan for helping your aging parents manage their financial resources. It’s also possible to engage in appropriate estate planning to have the assets moved into a trust that the family can manage together. There are other steps that can be taken.

Make sure you know where important financial documents are, as well as have a good idea of where the assets are. You don’t want to encroach too far, but you also want to make sure that your parents are protected. Seniors are frequent targets of scams ranging from Social Security and Medicare to tax credits to sob stories from hired caregivers. With the ability to make decisions deteriorating, it’s little surprise that seniors are vulnerable to scams.

Look for signs that your aging parents might be making poor decisions. My grandpa was sure that he was going to win a sweepstakes, and got in the habit of ordering useless items from the catalogues sent. This was a problem relatively easy to solve by stopping such mail items. The fact that the whole family was on the alert helped.

Other problems are more difficult to solve, such as when someone claims that your loved one is entitled to a “special” Medicare benefit, and attempts to steal important personal information. It can also be hard when a hired caregiver turns out to be stealing from your aging parent — and your parent sides with the interloper. It’s even worse when the financial elder abuse comes from someone in the family.

Be on the look out for signs that your parents are being targeted, and take steps to reduce the problem. My dad and his siblings never had to take the step of having my grandpa considered incompetent, and guardianship wasn’t needed. But in some cases, it might be. Carefully think about your options, and how to protect your aging parents from financial problems, and take the necessary steps before it’s too late.


Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.