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At 97 my MIL is in independent/assisted living in her own apt. She scoots herself in her wheelchair to activities and meals, which she says keeps her there at a cost of $4000+ a month, self pay.
Her dementia has now caused her to lose, or forget to pay bills all together.
Husband and I are not able to pay her bills but would like to assist her in banking but she adamantly refuses and continues to get phone shut off, late fees and such.
Husband is power of attorney and doesn't want to "stir her up" but knows she needs help. I have tried to gently tell her I can come and help her organize, write out checks and let her sign and mail. It does not go over well.
Any advice?

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I'm living with my folks. Mom 95 with dementia has spent literally hours working on her bills to write one or two checks and sometimes even put the wrong amount down. Was hard for me to be comfortable opening her/their mail, but began to see it for the protection it was. Dad tried to get her to allow me to handle it all; she was very much opposed. Ultimately began going through her drawers where there were masses of receipts and papers no longer needed (FIFTEEN POUNDS taken to Staples for shredding!!). She is still quite capable of grabbing the mail. Yesterday only by chance I found something of importance in the back of a kitchen utensil drawer. Ultimately we got her checkbook, and all the checks. So she can try to get the bills...but she can't pay anything. We have changed the mailing address to my father's name (or hers, in some cases) to my PO BOX address, so she can't see/handle them to begin with. One of the biggest hassles has been magazine subscription renewal notices that are merciless. No matter how many times I write and say STOP SENDING THESE, they persist. She thinks they are bills. She sends them back, then they send a bill. I have finally set up a spreadsheet of sorts to track them all. And yes, she does "read" them. I'm not thrilled about switching everything to on-line, but for now this is working adequately. BTW, I'm also seeing how many charitable solicitations they get...
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I agree with the others. Set everything up on auto pay with ebills going to your email and eliminate her getting any paper bills. Go online to access all her accounts. You have her ss#, dob, etc so the Bank doesn’t need to know it’s you. You can eliminate bank paper statements also. By looking at her accounts you will see who she has been paying and who is auto withdrawing. You should be able to go back a few years online with no problems. Best of luck!
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Everything that can automatically be deducted out of her checking account should be set up STAT! That should make it 100x easier on you trying to get her to sigh her checks to bills owed. Just make sure to have enough funds in the checking account or set up overdraft protection.
Believe me, I know what you're going through. 8-12 months before I had to live with my mother, I gave her senior center individual the okay to balance her checkbook because I was asked to. What a mess that turned out to be! So when I finally had to move and LIVE WITH my mother out of state where she was "keeping house"-yea, -NOT!, the bookkeeper arrives at her my mother's house to balance her checkbook. She was $859 OFF AND HAD BEEN FOR 7 MONTHS!!!!!! My mother said "well, she'll get it right next month." In disbelief, I said "Mother, she doesn't get 7 attempts to balance a checkbook...she either balances or she doesn't!!"  UNBELIEVABLE!
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Please, step in and take over ASAP. My dad lost pretty much everything before the signs were obvious enough that I did some sleuthing and uncovered financial disaster. If your mother-in-law is incurring late fees, that's enough of an indicator that something is wrong. Pull her credit history right away, too. Unscrupulous companies and individuals prey on older people; I include big banks in that category. Tell your MIL's bank that you're taking over and want things locked down. Ask for reimbursement of whatever portion of the fees she may have paid that you can negotiate. Sign up to do all her banking online and don't have the statements mailed.
My dad protested vehemently when I took over. It was a real knock down, drag out fight. But now, he won't even open his mail. He turns everything over to me and has no interest in it. I have several friends who have had the same experience - parents have gone from "it's none of your business" to "I couldn't be bothered."
The fight for the checkbook is a battle worth winning.
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Try to set everything on auto pay. My dad let me handle his finances about 7 years ago, he was 82 at the time and had a heart attack. He was not paying on time, even before his illness. Was surprised that he let me do this, but it has been so much easier for both of us. The only time I have a problem is when he opens a bill and decides to pay it. I was out of town for about 6 weeks and he managed to pay some bills after I had explained everything was set up to be paid. He still watches his bank statements like a hawk but I think he knows I have his best interest at heart. He now lives with us and his only household expense is the cable. He has it pretty good, I think. I am an only child so I guess he thinks I am trying to get his money. I tell him to spend it on himself because there are "no armored cars in a funeral procession". This is one of his sayings. He does't have a debit card, still writes checks does use a credit card. It is hard for them to let go, but a relief to them when they do.
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Yes you need to step in. I have set my father up on all electronically paid bills. I don't even have his mail come to his apartment. He was in financial ruin so all he had was creditor past due requests for payment and junk mail when my husband and I relocated him out to Kansas from Arizona. His phone rang off the hook 24/7 with bill collectors.

Now he lives in a clean modest apartment he can afford, has everything he needs, including hot cooked meals 4 nights a week that I deliver and all his bills are paid for. I give him an allowance every two weeks so he still can feel independent to get groceries, go to the hardware store or whatever. The lessened stress has even helped his once lacking memory come back quite a bit. Good luck to you.
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Put in a forwarding address to your house for all the bills. As long as she is still getting the rest of the mail, she will not remember that she is not getting the bills. Next, you will need to get to the bank and add your husband to her account. This may take a bit depending on your paperwork. Next, evaluate her finances and see if she can afford t he assisted living....if not, apply for medicaid waivers and medicaid. Wishing you well. I wished I had stepped in years ago with my elderly aunt as she was scammed to the tune of almost $40,000 and now the tax payers are footing her assisted living bill through medicaid. That is why it is important to monitor what is going on.......some companies can be very devious....
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It sounds like someone needs to help her set up online auto bill pay from her end. You can get a username and password with the help of a personal banker at your local branch. You can take the login info and access your bank account through the bank's website. She can log into her account and do all of her banking from the comfort of home. All you do when adding payees gather all of your bills and get all of the info for each person you're paying each month. For personal automatic payments, you can make up your own account number like if you're paying rent to a private person. When you get all of the bills set up, they'll come out automatically but you must set the amounts and the dates you need them to come out in order for the bank's system to know when to send the payments. After setting this up, you should never ever need anyone handling your money if it all stays in the bank and you go digital and never carry cash either. I went digital years ago and never looked back. In comparison to having once had a representative payee when I first started out in the world to once carrying cash and now having automatic online bill pay set up from my end, I highly recommend going digital. That way, there's no excuse for anyone to be handling your money for no reason because the bank sends out the bills automatically through their system. I'm glad for online auto bill pay because it's more than just a convenience. It actually comes in handy when you most need it and when this is set up, no one, and I mean absolutely no one has no business with their hands in your bank account. I'm also glad for the modern security to protect bank accounts as this also protects the customer. If you ever had your MIL try auto bill pay, I'm sure she'd definitely appreciate it
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Midkid58, my mother didn't have a computer and wouldn't even know how to turn one on. Fortunately she trusted all of her kids and if we assured her this was safe and that we all did it, she believed that. She let my sister set this up for her. She only saw the paper trail -- never looked at it online. If there is some paranoia involved, that complicates things considerably.
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My mother still writes checks for everything...maybe the last living soul on earth who doesn't even have a debit card. She's beginning to have some problems with remembering to pay---I have straightened out a couple of issues she's had with late/non payments. I am not her POA or anything, so I passed this info along to brother who is. He was not happy, tried to get her set up so he could pay her bills from his computer, but she is terrified at the idea. She thinks everyone is out to steal her identity.

Eventually, he will HAVE to take over, and I don't envy him. Luckily, I guess, her slight dementia has made her much calmer and easier to be around.

Jeanne--I'm with you---a lot of my bills are autopay and I just get an email stating it was paid. I think mom, at 88 is just too old to wrap her brain around the computer--she's had several and cannot operate any of them.
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I'm only 72 and still in my right mind, but I'd have my phone shut off regularly if I didn't have nearly everything I have to pay taken out of my checking account automatically. That is more satisfying than having a kid help me! Would your mother be open to having you help her set that up? You can go totally paperless, but I assume your mother would like the paper statements to see that the bills have been paid. My mother finally let my sister set that up for her and it was a big load off of everyone's mind!
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Oh, check with an attorney, but, if you are Durable POA, follow the law in that jurisdiction. Some places require it to be filed with Register of Deeds, then you can start acting on her behalf by notifying these businesses. You can pay the bills online, request the bills only online, etc. Would she even notice that they stop coming by regular mail?
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When I noticed the paperwork piling up in my Mom's apt, I offered first to sort out the medical EOBs --- since I had always worked in the insurance field, she was fairly accepting of this. But I only took the bills/EOBs and then would come back with what had to be paid or filed. I would tell her what to write and we'd do the envelope/stamp thing. I took the outgoing mail with me since I would be passing the mail box. Ultimately, she asked her friends at the continuing care community about whether or not their kids helped with financial stuff. They looked at her like she was crazy (at 95) and said the kids had been handling for years. That was it, I got the whole ball of wax - so to speak.
No one wants to 'lose control'. Think about her situation and how to do a bit at a time. I began with 'Mom what are all of these papers?" The community newspaper from 4 months ago got a laugh and was tossed. The magazine from 2 years ago, tossed. Don't forget, most utilities (phone etc) you can add your husband to get a notice if they are in danger of shutting off.
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Is the POA Durable? If so, I'd just step in and do what needs to be done. That's why you are needed when the person is incompetent, but, if he's hesitant, I'm not sure how you can step in without court appointment. I'd consult with an attorney in her jurisdiction to get info on the process for filing for Guardianship.

Also, how does she pay for her monthly AL/IL fees? That has to be paid. I'd stay on top of that for sure. Do they have automatic draft for that? I suppose you could wait and see if she will accept your help later, but, I'd likely take steps to address it now. That's what is so sad about seniors taking measures to have help when they need it, but, then when they need it, they are mentally impaired and reject the help. It can be frustrating.

I know that at one point, my LO was very controlling and defensive, but, once she progressed, she gave up all her finances. She was so relieved when I took them over. She thanked me and said thank goodness. So, you never know how things will go.
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