If you are not already assisting your parent or other senior family member with finances, prepare now for the need to do so in the future. If no one has yet been designated to serve as Power of Attorney (POA) for finances; or executed a will designating an executor to handle financial matters on his/her behalf after death, these matters should be handled now.
Check with the bank and/or other financial institutions to determine requirements for adding a co-signer to accounts. The person holding a POA for finances can generally complete bank paperwork and be added as an account co-signer (not co-owner).
If you take over paying the bills for the senior, continue to let the senior write and sign checks (e.g., for groceries, haircuts or permanents, housekeeper) if he/she is competent to do so. Also, offer the opportunity to sign checks you have pre-written for payment of monthly bills. These small things can help the senior maintain a sense of control and autonomy.
Even if the senior currently handles bill paying, there will likely come a time when someone will need to take this over. Now is the time to start the conversation about finances, i.e., management of investments, payment of monthly bills, POA, wills, etc. It can be done delicately and responsibly so as to preserve their dignity and right to self-determination.
If the senior is reluctant to discuss finances with you, consider engaging a Geriatric Care Manager in this notebook) or other senior care professional, such as an ombudsman or volunteer who work for the County the senior is located in, in order to advise you and perhaps meet with your parent/other senior family member, on your behalf.
Things to Consider:
1. If senior is still semi-independent, consider teaching him/her how to use an ATM/debit card to make cash purchases, e.g., groceries, prescriptions. If you are responsible for keeping your parent or other senior family member supplied with spending money, this will reduce the cash needs.
2. If after conferring with an elder law attorney, you conclude that the senior may need to apply for Medicaid coverage, now is the time to set up separate checking and savings accounts (if both parents are living, do this for each parent).
3. Much bill paying can be done by pre-authorized automatic transfers (i.e., auto-pay). If the senior is agreeable, set up this service prior to when there is a need to decrease the number of checks that must be written each month (e.g., utilities, newspaper, telephone).
Next post: Financial Notes – Part II
“Be great in little things” St. Francis Xavier