The Elderly and Finances

Ask the Gerontological Nurse

by   |   vpeterse@bju.edu   |  
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How do you maintain a posture of respect for elderly relatives in areas of finances? For example, at what point should you intervene in managing money and bills while still giving them areas where they can feel independent and responsible? Do you have any tips for how to transition?

Thank you for this necessary question.

Working Together with Finances

Scamming the elderly for their money is a very real problem, so this could be a reason for suggesting to an elder that you help them with their finances. If the elder agrees to allow you to look at their finances together, then you would be able to get an idea of where money is going each month.

That being said, as long as the elder’s outgo is less than their income, you should allow the elder to have the responsibility and independence to spend the money as they wish. Your values are not the same as the elder’s values, and you need to allow them to spend how they want.

Intervening with Dementia Patient’s Finances

I’m guessing that you may be referring to the elder exhibiting symptoms of dementia which are beginning to interfere with their ability to manage finances. Remember that dementia is never a sign of normal aging. If an elder is exhibiting symptoms of confusion or increasing forgetfulness, seek medical intervention. A cognitive assessment by a healthcare professional could greatly assist you in your decisions related to intervening with the elder’s finances.

Automating Recurring Payments

Another practical suggestion, if the elder would allow, is to have recurring bills automatically drafted from a bank account. This would remove the burden of paying those bills every month while also allowing the elder to see how much is left over for other expenses.

Remember that discussing finances is generally a topic that will start an argument among the best of friends, so tread lightly and bathe any conversations with much prayer.

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Valarie Petersen

Dr. Valarie Petersen is a member of the Division of Nursing faculty at BJU and holds a master’s degree in nursing in clinical gerontology. She is part of a very small percentage of nationally certified gerontological clinical nurse specialists across the country teaching in nursing schools, allowing her to bring a specialized perspective to the art of caring for the elderly in the various fields of nursing.