Money Matters

by Phyllis Larkin, Psy.D
Geriatric and Family Psychologist

  • Mom says in a panic, “They turned off the electricity. I don’t know what happened?”
  • Unopened bills are piled on the counter.
  • There are unnecessary new windows and doors on dad’s house, and the replacements were financed through a second mortgage on the house.
  • Since the caregiver moved in, money is being taken out of the bank accounts.
  • Identity theft of mom’s credit.

Unfortunately, the senior population is at high risk for financial fraud and abuse. Isolation, cognitive decline, and physical impairment are exploited by criminals who target seniors. Having financial documents in order helps protect seniors and their families from fiduciary abuse. Below are links to helpful information regarding fraud.

Consumer advisories: Preventing fraud

Beware of scams targeting older adults during the holidays Read the blog
Work with your bank or credit union to protect older adults from financial exploitation Read the blog
How to avoid becoming a victim of an asset recovery scam Read the blog
Planning for diminished capacity and illness Read the blog

Planning is Key

Obtaining access to your loved ones’ bills, financial accounts and assets must be done before the onset of cognitive impairment to avoid costly and painful court proceedings. Procedures for Court Appointed Guardianship differs from state to state so be sure to get specific information about the state that your loved one lives in.

One of our support group members found this excellent guide that addresses the financial documents that you may need to help your loved one. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guides are tailored to the needs of people in four different fiduciary roles, and there is a helpful video discussing different situations. These documents should be created before hiring caregivers. All financial documents, bills, and personal identification should be removed from the home if outside caregivers are engaged. Unfortunately, seniors may need to be protected from unsavory family members and these documents help protect their financial security.

Power of attorney

Guides for those who have been named in a power of attorney to make decisions about money and property for someone else.

Court-appointed guardians

Guides for those who have been appointed by a court to be guardians of property or conservators, giving them the duty and the power to make financial decisions on someone’s behalf.


Guides for those who have been named as trustees under revocable living trusts.

Government fiduciaries

Guides for those who have been appointed by a government agency to manage another person's income benefits, such as Social Security or Veterans Affairs benefit checks.