Visit them at their home and quietly notice any changes. The trick is to notice but proceed with care and diplomacy. Hurting your parents’ feelings and dignity will only cause them distress, ending in denial and resistance.
Here are some signs to watch for:
1. Disorganized piles of unpaid bills, dunning notices. Note utility and mortgage bills, homeowner association dues, credit card statements, etc. Late and missed payments on credit cards can destroy their financial situation quickly.
2. Missed appointments, especially for health care issues, can mean trouble with memory.
3. Boxes of unused purchases from television shopping sites.
4. Solicitations and thank-you’s for donations to unfamiliar or unusual places, or unusual amounts.
5. Checkbooks or bank statements showing checks were poorly written. Is the date written correctly?
Has their signature or handwriting deteriorated, even without a specific physical handicap? Are you sure the handwriting is theirs?
6.The house is no longer clean – if it usually is clean and organized. The question is whether this is a change. If Dad has always been happy with dust and piles of laundry that may be just the way he is.
7. Excessive reminder notes. Post-it’s everywhere for fairly routine things – not just the computer password, or someone’s phone number.
8. Excessive financial gifts to family members, health care workers, religious professionals.
Kiplinger’s, the personal financial website, has a list of warning signs plus some helpful advice on how to proceed with diplomatically getting involved with a fading parent’s financial situation.