As our family members or friends get older, it’s normal to worry about them and want to help.
But it's not that easy to know what to do. If you're finding it tricky, here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.
Start a money conversation
Sometimes, it's not easy for older people to talk about money. They may not want to talk about it for fear losing their independence or becoming a burden.
The best thing to do is just start the conversation. The sooner you do, the sooner you can work out how to help them.
- Keep it relevant — only ask for information you need to know to work out how to help them. Avoid asking about irrelevant or private personal details.
- Encourage open discussion — ask about their plans for the future and any concerns they have: for example, they might be worried about paying for aged care.
- Share your own concerns — explain why you wanted to talk to them. For example, that you want to make sure they'll be looked after if they get sick or if anything happens to them.
If your loved one is struggling with debt, encourage them to talk to a financial counsellor. Financial counselling is free, confidential and independent.
Take stock of their current position
An important step to help your loved one make good financial decisions is for them to know where they are now.
Work through it with them to list their assets and debts.
Suggest that they make a list of their important documents, such as:
- birth certificate
- marriage certificate
- enduring power of attorney
- advance healthcare directive
- house deeds and bank account details.
Encourage them to keep these documents secure, for example, in a locked filing cabinet or secure data file. Advise them to limit access to these files to the person that will manage their estate.
Ensure they have a current will
If the person you're supporting does not have a will, help them to get one.
A will states what they want to happen to their assets — such as money, property or jewelry — when they die. It can also cover what they want for their funeral.
If they do have a will, encourage them to take another look at it. It may need updating if there have been major changes in their life, including:
- the death of their partner or any beneficiaries
- the birth of new children or grandchildren
- if they have bought or sold any property
Suggest an enduring power of attorney
Talk to your loved one about whether they would like to give someone an enduring power of attorney. This means giving someone else the legal authority to look after their affairs, if needed.
Suggest that they think about who they would want to make financial decisions for them, if they become unable to. Don't pressure them into nominating any particular person.
Encourage them to think about who the right person is (or people, as they can appoint more than one). The person needs to be trustworthy, reliable and have the skills to manage the older person's finances.
So that everyone knows their wishes, encourage your loved one to discuss their decision with their family. This will help avoid surprises and disputes later on.
Consider financial advice
Services Australia have Financial Information Officers that can provide free information on a variety of financial topics for seniors, such as:
- understanding retirement income streams
- planning for residential care
- wills and estate planning
- understanding your pension
Your loved one may find it helpful to get professional financial advice to put a plan in place to manage their money.
There are lots of free resources to help you with issues that affect older people. There's no need to work it all out by yourself.
See elder care and seniors support for a list of national, state and territory organisations.