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Folks in the “sandwich generation” care for and safeguard both their children and their aging loved ones. Many are also dealing with the challenges of work, adding to their stress.

Making matters worse for the sandwich generation are the increasing number of identity theft and financial fraud cases targeting unsuspecting, vulnerable senior citizens. Recent press coverage about these stories fuel more worry about older loved ones who may already face health or financial challenges. And when older parents live far from their adult children, the concern about how they are faring can feel overwhelming.

What can a sandwich generation caregiver do to protect his or her loved ones from elder financial abuse?

The first important step you can take is to have a conversation with them about their financial picture. Understanding their wishes and concerns about protecting their hard-earned assets can go a long way to creating a plan that protects them.

This conversation, which can be part of a larger conversation about advance planning, is critical in today’s world. Consider the following startling statistics: research shows that 1 in 5 seniors has been financially exploited, at an average loss of $120,300 per victim.

Starting a conversation with your parents may feel like a somewhat uncomfortable challenge. Usually, just being candid and loving about your concerns eases the way.

Dialogues in which you engage your loved ones and develop a plan together to help keep them healthy and safe is a key to empowering them. It helps both seniors and their potential future caregivers navigate decision-making around all kinds of important subjects, including health, housing and financial protection.

In addition to having these important conversations, you may want to explore a variety of tools designed to help seniors and their adult children or trusted caregivers to work together to create an effective financial protection plan:

Experts agree that early detection of suspicious financial activity is a critical factor in limiting the damage that identity theft, scams and fraud can cause. EverSafe provides specialized financial protection monitoring for seniors; it even allows them to designate trusted advocates like grown children or professionals to be alerted of irregularities in their account activity.

Keeping informed of the current threats in the marketplace is also an essential part of any financial protection plan. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network keeps members updated on the latest frauds, scams and other threats to seniors, plus provides numerous other resources.

Employing honest dialogue and available tools, the collaborative financial protection plan you build with your aging parents will be both respectful of their wishes and feelings, and work comfortably as a part of your busy, stressful life. It might also help forge a wonderful new kind of bond between you and your parent as that relationship evolves over the years.

It all starts with having that first, sometimes challenging, but very necessary conversation.