Transitioning from child to caregiver: How to regulate spending habits?

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I feel like I'm caught somewhere in the middle - sometimes my father does just fine paying bills on time and having a bit left in his bank. Other times he spends way too much money on gimmicks (ex: sham wow!) and junk food. He has always been this way only now has very little money left over to spend, so he needs to make smarter choices. He is not in debt anymore and spends all he has left, never saving. The idea of having money in a savings account means nothing to him. If it's there, he'll spend it. He wants all the luxuries that retired life advertises but doesn't have a dime for it.

I can understand that his freedom to buy what he wants is important. It's a huge part of daily life to just give over to someone else. I just make sure to spend my money on the gaps - fresh food, cheap ingredients, leafy greens... I like to take the time to cook healthy, cheap meals.

Every time I try to talk about his spending habits and how he should be making smarter purchases, he finds a reason to justify why he absolutely needed this or that, the most common being 'It's on sale so I had to buy it'... IF he agrees with me it still doesn't change a thing. He will dismiss our conversation or forget about it. I can't argue with his reasoning, he doesn't listen and it makes me very angry. I also don't know how to make sure he doesn't buy duplicate items, since he won't remember what we already have and won't bother to write anything down.

Do I take full control? I fear this will cause a lot of arguing. How can I help him cut spending, make better choices, or maybe save some of his money for him?

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Gardenartist....I am so with you on the Home Depot Lowes thing!! Although I do love to cook so a fabulous farmers market or produce market gets me excited also. Going shopping for shoes and cloths and such is not nearly the fun...If you said to me...lets go to the mall or a hardware store...I'd choose the hardware store at least 80%...OH and we hang out at Barns and noble at least once a month :). I've actually never met another women that liked the hardware stores though.
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Also a quick note...try not to let it bother you that he spends every other cent on things that don't make sense...he really isn't going to change and saving money just won't have any meaning at this point. Let him live in his happy place as long as he is able. We had to take that away from my mom about a year ago...it's unfortunate, but you have to do what you have to do.
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My mom made pretty good money when she was in her 50's so she got used to spending and knowing she would have more soon....but she almost always spent down to the last dime. So when she stopped working because of the dementia (she was not diagnosed at the time) her income came way down, but still she had enough to pay the mortgages and bills and food and a little left over...except that as the dementia continued she lost site of how to deal with the money and how to care for herself properly or how to eat properly and would go to the store and buy ice cream, banana;s and pecan pie to eat and sometimes soup and eggs...although she had forgotten how to cook them. My brother lived close and went over once a week and when it got so bad and her health was so bad we did an intervention and got her into the Dr with my Brother present and had her assessed. Right off the Dr at the time had my brother take her keys and get POA and Living Will done. When he went into see what damage she had done...it was pretty bad, but over the past 1 1/2 years since she came down to live with me he has gotten things under control and is slowly but surely paying off the bills.

My point is this...he may be early in his dementia, but you really have to watch him. The sugary food is part of the dementia from everything I can tell...they start to only like sweet things and this causes some issues with diabetes etc.

You might want to suggest that he does a POA and Living Will naming you should he become incapable of doing it himself.

Now would be the time to do it...because when he starts getting really bad it will be much more difficult.

I would suggest that maybe the day he gets his check you might go by and help him pay his bills...also maybe grocery shop with him and suggest healthy things as well as sweets.

At some point you will have to take over the finances etc...but now you can help make sure he isn't going into debt and he has groceries etc. You might want to check him every so often to see if he is loosing his ability to cook as well.

Just some thoughts.
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GardenArtist, LOL you are so right about the man cave. I have to admit, I find Home Depot a lot more interesting than a grocery store. I grew up a tomboy as I found what Dad was doing was more fun than watching Mom cook. I do love the smell of sawdust... still waiting for Glade to come out with that scent.

I see items in Home Depot, I know what to do with them..... I see items in the grocery store, and well, ah, I am not sure what to do with them, except I know you put milk on cereal :)

On the other side of the coin, my significant other can only identify light bulbs at Home Depot, he is clueless about anything else in that store. He gets his mental fix at Barnes & Nobel.
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Thanks everyone for the helpful insight! Obviously I'm new to this and appreciate it. Fortunately my dad doesn't use a checkbook except to pay bills. It's the whole online-shopping that's dangerous, with his debit card. He is only 65 with early dementia and has always enjoyed shopping online. So I think I'll take your advice and leave him alone.

When making a big mistake in the past it was because he wouldn't ask me for help. So he called up an 'expert' for $300. It was a scam. He later realized how he made that stupid decision and said he learned from it. I hope so. So as you can see, he is certainly capable of independence, but needs to know I am there for help when he needs it. Still working on that one.
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Oh, Freqflyer, I must share this with you! Guys don't want to shop online for home repair items - going to a Man Cave is therapeutic for them! They like the smells, the choice of tools, even looking at various kinds of screws and fasteners! I think electrical equipment is especially fascinating for them as well.

I take my father to Man Caves (including Harbor Freight) for a mental pick-me-up.

BTW, are you aware that HD and Lowes give Veterans' discounts? If your father is a vet, you'll need a veterans' ID with a photo of him.
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I agree with Sodonewithsal1, your Dad will never change.

Some people see actual bills and coins as *real cash*, while credit cards and checks aren't *real*. They tend to see when the real cash is disappearing because they are buying so much. Give your Dad an allowance of what ever amount.... he needs to pay everything from that allowance [just substitute a check for the cash when mailing out bills, or have the bills automatically deducted from his checking account]. When he sees he only has a buck ninety left he might reconsider what he is spending on. Then again, maybe not.

I have the opposite with my parents, they don't want to buy anything that will make their life easier. For the past 4 years I have been trying to get my Dad to order high speed Internet so he can shop on line for all those things he claims he needs at Home Depot or Lowes to fix things around the house.... instead of having me always driving him to the stores where he buys one item after shopping for 2 hours.... [sigh]
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Thanks for the reply! When I said full control, I meant being with him every step of the way, like going shopping with him, paying bills with him, being there when he needs to write a check, checking on what he has been doing financially often. I have been and am currently leaving this all up to him and checking on everything now and then. He only has a small amount of disability income to spend, no credit cards anymore. He knows I am good at budgeting and saving which is what got him out of debt initially.

I want to respect him and not make him feel incompetent or declare him so, but I feel like I need to try something even if it fails. I will continue to insist he shop for healthier food, not fall for ordering certain products (not just on TV), and anything else that I feel is necessary. He obviously had unhealthy habits before but his physical and mental health have made them worse. Short of a Dr.'s appointment, I want to do what's best for him.

I think my question is more asking for strategy when it comes to handling financial matters and spending. How does everyone else handle their parents'?
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If he's been that way his entire life, it's doubtful he's going to learn good spending habits at this late date. Taking full control means what, exactly? Making him hand over his checkbook and credit cards? Insisting that he purchase no more items from infomercials? (The ShamWow is awesome, BTW!) Short of having him declared incompetent and becoming his conservator there's not much you can do, other than ask if you can save some of his money for him and hope he hands it over on a regular basis.
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