When your parents start getting really old, the roles can be reversed. Last week I was sitting with six friends and realised that all of us were parenting our parents in some way.
That need for help from their children often comes on slowly due to mental or physical decline over time. You may not even notice until, in my personal experience, a sudden event highlights the need.
In my small circle, I've seen a father scammed of $10,000, a carer asking for money for international flights, another father paying out hundreds of dollars a week to charities that were showering him with requests, relatives and carers wanting to move into to the older person's house for free rent, and more. Sometimes a hospitalisation reveals the parent isn't coping. I've heard of cases where the older person has been told he or she won't see the grandchildren unless they lend money. The idea is "mum (or dad) can afford it".
Older people are sometimes roped against their will into acting as guarantor for family members or carers, says Dr Pushpa Wood, director of the Financial Education and Research Centre at Massey University.
Financial elder abuse is rife in our society, and the worst offenders are often members of the family who help themselves to mum or dad's money.
People who have never had to deal with aging parents, often have no idea how difficult the situation can be. The older person may be resistant or secretive about their financial situation. It's their money after all and they may be suspicious about your motives.
Kickback is just fine if they're managing on their own. If not, or you have fears for their financial wellbeing, you have probably just opened a can of worms.
Books have been written on the subject of parenting your parents. Read one. Or, says Hanny Naus, professional educator: elder abuse and neglect at Age Concern suggests, call your local Age Concern branch for some advice, or check out the website.
Then try to open a dialogue. Don't go in with: "I need to manage your money". And certainly don't do it when any of you are under stress following an incident of any type.
Wood, who has herself dealt with aging parents, says open up with questions such as: "When did you last go shopping?" "Are you feeling okay in terms of dealing with your money?" "Do you know what the rules around giving your PIN out?" The most important thing is that you have the other person's best interests at heart.
If they are willing to accept help, ask what types of changes they'd like to make. Or how could you help them?
Naus says make sure you tell your relative that you are trying to help them use their money for themselves, to ensure they enjoy life. "Say: 'we need to do this together to make sure it is set up the way you need'. Raise ideas, but say: 'we are not making any decisions today. Let's come back and talk about it'."
In some circumstances you may need to use tough love, says Wood. That might be putting the fear of God into your relative about not giving their PIN to anyone at all, says Wood. Or work with your relative and the bank to set flags or limits on their accounts. You may want to visit the bank together in the early days to ensure your relative is operating their accounts safely.
If your relative does need help then it can be a good idea to talk about the possibility of setting up an enduring power of attorney (EPA) for financial matters, which will allow you to do more on their behalf. Always make sure the power of attorney is shared jointly with someone else or there is a backup attorney named.
Whatever you do keep all discussions in the open with the entire family. Naus knows some families that even set up private Facebook groups to keep everyone in the loop. Get a facilitator if communication breaks down.