Have you noticed that Dad or Mom sees a little forgetful lately? Did you visit recently and notice unopened bills on the table? If your aging parent or aging parents are suffering from memory loss, it may be time to face the music: you have to do something. What to do can be a problem if you’ve never thought about this before. Here are some quick tips to keep your elderly aging parents’ money from being misused and to protect them from the risks of forgetting to pay their bills.
First, find out what is really going on with the signs of memory loss. There are lots of factors which can contribute to it. Poor nutrition, overmedication or failing to take prescribed medicines, depression, and other physical illnesses can make a memory loss problem worse. Some short term memory loss usually accompanies aging, but the kind that leaves aging parents forgetting to pay the mortgage or the electric bill can be very dangerous. These alarming signs of memory loss are not “normal” in the sense that they automatically happen to everyone who gets older. They may be signs of decreased blood flow to the brain, or of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
It’s time for a checkup. Mom or Dad may be the kind who hate going to doctors, but it’s up to their adult children or caregivers to be sure they see a doctor for memory loss problems which make their children worry. The risks to aging parents’ safety are too great. We simply cannot ignore a parent getting lost, forgetting to turn of the stove, or failing to pay for their insurance. Consider it a warning if something like this happens. If possible, accompany your elderly parent to the doctor. Describe the problem you have observed. Ironically, a parent’s memory loss problem may cause him or her to be unable to clearly describe the extent of the problem to the physician without your help.
Consider whether your aging parents have a durable power of attorney for finances. If not, see that this is done, before the memory loss problem interferes too much with your aging parent’s competency. If you wait too long, he or she may not be legally able to sign anything. A durable power of attorney for finances is something every older person should have. If Mom falls and is unconscious, it will allow the adult child to legally take money from Mom’s bank to pay the bills. If Dad has a stroke, it allows the adult child to take over the finances temporarily or permanently. If your parent needs this document, the best way to get it done is to see an attorney. If your parent can’t afford a lawyer, search for low cost other ways to get legal advice and document preparation. They may be available to you through AARP, Legal Aid, or senior citizens’ centers, where community attorneys may volunteer their time to help. Whatever you choose, don’t wait for a crisis. When those signs of memory loss appear, it’s time to take responsibility and be prepared to help.