The Disappearing Act: Where is My Parent's Money Going?

Mar 28, 2016

The Disappearing Act: Where is My Parent's Money Going?

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Imagine a senior who has worked hard his or her entire life and managed to retire with enough funds to live comfortably. Along with this, they are receiving social security checks that should assure the senior never needs or wants for anything. Now imagine this same senior showing up at loved ones’ houses every week asking for money. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common – and even more upsetting is that not many people are aware of the underlying reasons many seniors bank accounts run dry.

Where is My Parents Money Going?

Why do seniors participate in these activities such as gambling, drinking, and excessive shopping? Seniors partake in these things for numerous reasons – boredom being among the most common. Believe it or not, gambling and shopping are two of the most common senior-friendly activities, with a whopping 70 percent of seniors stating that they had gambled within the past year. Another popular reason seniors take part in these bad habits as a coping mechanism. Have they just lost a spouse or are they having a difficult time aging, along with coming into a disposable income that some may have never had before? Finally, these spending habits can make an elderly individual feel powerful and in control and control over his or her own life may be something that they feel they are lacking in their old age.

Common Behaviors Associated with Senior Financial Issues

Prior to assuming an elderly loved one is suffering from one of the addictions listed below, it is important that family members confront them about the situation. Ask questions in a calm matter – because as common as these addictions are, it’s just as common that your love one's money may be disappearing for a justifiable reason. If that doesn’t seem to be the case, here are three of the most common money-related addictions seniors tend to suffer from.

  1. Gambling - For many seniors, gambling isn’t just for a fun weekend every now and then in Las Vegas or Atlantic City with a budgeted amount of money to spend – for many seniors gambling is an everyday activity. Actually, according to the American Gaming Association, over half of all gamblers are aged 50 or over. The association then goes on to explain their results, expressing that 36 percent of people aged 50 to 64, and 28 percent of people aged 65 and up had visited a casino in 2012.
  2. Shopping - Shopping addiction in seniors can begin for a number of reasons: maybe a senior has never come into such a significant amount of money at one time, maybe there is an underlying psychological need, and at times they may just be bored. Nonetheless, a shopping addiction is something to take seriously, because this is more than blowing a check. Shopping addictions can result in multiple maxed out credit cards and an unhealthy use of an individual’s pension. Shopping addictions may come in all shapes in sizes. While some are able to head out to the local mall or retail stores, others enjoy online shopping as well as shopping through television commercials. The number of seniors addicted to shopping has increased with a new familiarity with computers and technology.
  3. Substance Abuse - The third most common, money-devouring addiction in seniors is an addiction to drugs and alcohol. This is also one of the scariest addictions seniors and loved ones face due to the fact that it greatly affects seniors’ physical and mental well-being. Drinking too much, especially in old age, can lead to certain types of cancer, liver damage and more. Not to mention, alcohol increases an already high risk of falls amongst seniors or getting into accidents. According to the NCADD, elderly widowers have the highest rate of alcoholism in the United States, 14 percent of elderly emergency room visits are due to drug and alcohol abuse, and about 50 percent of nursing home residents have an alcohol addiction.

Dangers of Addiction in the Elderly

Why are these addictions causing issues among senior citizens? Aside from any physical damages addictions like alcohol may cause, all of these addictions wreak havoc on the pockets of elderly individuals in America. Those that truly suffer from shopping, gambling, or substance addictions spend thousands upon thousands of dollars, and at times, even end up signing away beloved possessions such as houses or cars. These addictions prevent senior citizens from being able to live comfortably in old age, and they risk giving up any money to live on at all.

If family member suspect that an elderly loved one is blowing money, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for the signs and addictions mentioned. If family members believe that a loved one is showing signs of an addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Help Hotlines

  • Gambling: 1-800-522-4700
  • Shopping: 1-877-403-3381
  • Substance Abuse: 1-800-590-0227
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Frequently Asked Questions

How prevalent is addiction in the elderly community?

Findings from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that 20-30 percent of people ages 75 to 85 have experienced drinking problems and, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, 3.6 percent of adults aged 60 to 64 report using an illicit drug.

If you are concerned that your loved one has an addiction problem consider these drug treatment programs for seniors.

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How prevalent is medication abuse in the senior 65+ community?

Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, and some experience cognitive decline, which could lead to improper use of medications. Alternatively, those on a fixed income may abuse another person's remaining medication to save money. 

Prescription drug abuse in the elderly is more common than you think. If you believe your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs seek help immediately.

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