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When Irresponsible Spending by an Elderly Person Is a Sign of a More Serious Problem


It is not possible to make blanket statements about the financial habits of elderly people; people’s attitudes toward money are unique, as are the life experiences that have shaped those attitudes.  Many people who lived through lean times when they were young end up with a lifelong inclination toward frugality; therefore, if your parents’ childhood was characterized by wartime rationing, they might balk at the slightest splurge, even if their savings account balances are sizable.  Likewise, an increasing number of people will never be able to afford to retire.  Many elderly people today continue working out of necessity, and many are out of work simply because of their health; for them, modest spending is their only choice.  On the other hand, plenty of elderly people are spenders.  Some people who lived beyond their means in their youth continue to do so in their old age.  Meanwhile, people who spent their working years building up a nest egg might relish spending their hard-earned savings in the service of living their retirement years to the fullest.  If you are worried that your elderly relative’s financial behavior is a sign of a more serious problem, one of your first steps should be to contact an elder law attorney.

When Out-of-Character Spending Is a Warning Sign of Financial Abuse

You, as a working-age person, can probably spot a phone scam, telemarketing call, or phishing email from miles away, but do not assume that your elderly parents can.  Elderly people’s vulnerability to scams is a big part of why these scams have been able to continue as long as they have.  Loneliness, social isolation, and naivete about new technologies are some of the factors that lead elderly people to fall for financial scams.  You might hang up on a telemarketer immediately, or you might hang up after unleashing a string of curse words, but Grandma might stay on the phone because she is just glad to have someone to talk to.  If the person on the other end of the phone is pushy or manipulative enough, your elderly relative can easily get scammed.  If you are worried that your relative is losing money because of financial scams, a lawyer can help you.

When Out-of-Character Spending Is a Warning Sign of Dementia

Unexplained changes in behavior, including spending habits, are sometimes an early sign of dementia.  If Grandpa has been careful with money for your whole life, but recently he has started buying dozens of lottery tickets every week or buying collectibles of dubious value, it could be a sign that he is losing his grip on reality.  You should talk to a doctor as well as a lawyer, and it may be time to initiate procedures to monitor and protect the individual.  Once assets are misspent, or accounts are hacked, it is likely that recovery will be impossible.  Proactive protections should be considered.  Obtaining a power of attorney, allowing you to gain online access to monitor financial accounts can often be an important first step.  Guardianship may ultimately be necessary.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

It is almost never easy to talk to a family member about money problems, especially when the financial problems are just a symptom of something bigger.  An elder law attorney can help you think clearly about the situation.  Contact Clearwater elder law attorney William Rambaum to discuss your questions.


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