Looking for advice on how to step in and pay bills? - AgingCare.com

Looking for advice on how to step in and pay bills?

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My Mother is 77 and suffering from some dementia. She still lives alone and is still physically highly functional. Her dementia is starting to impact some of her regular chores such as paying bills. We are noticing that some of her bills such as cable are not getting paid. She calls us and complains that the cable is out. When we inquire, we find that she has not paid in several months. We do have power of attorney and would like to begin to take over to be sure her utilities, taxes, etc are being paid. With 3 children we cannot pay out of our own pocket. We would need to be able to pay from her accounts. Any suggestions on how we go about without insulting her (she is very self-conscience of her condition) or, not getting paranoid that we are looking to steal her money (yes...she has that type of dementia and that topic has already come up). We just want to be sure she is on stable ground financially......and also be sure she does not become victim of a scam and send 20K to a business women in Nigeria. Any suggestions on how to make this transition would be great.

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Ahmijoy - Thanks so much for the response. I agree with you. It certainly is the HOW that we are struggling with. Hence the posting. Yes she has been diagnosed. She was on medication. She claims that she visits her Neurologist on schedule. However, after calling them to check up, they did disclose that she has not attended her appointments in the last year and her prescription renewals have expired. She has been telling us a different story. This is our overall issue. She is not ready to surrender to the situation and accept intervention and help. She would rather fabricate stories. But, the reality is, things are starting to fail (financial and medical) and we feel that if we do not intervene in both areas, she will wind up in trouble soon. We want to find a way to do it without her getting upset and shutting us out. Thanks to you and all for all the suggestions. Really helping us as we think this out.
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Reply to SoninPA
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Son, maybe it’s not WHAT you’re doing, but HOW you’re doing it. A barrage of questions isn’t appreciated by anyone. And, if she’s already feeling sensitive about her situation, she may feel you’re asking because you think she’s not doing things right. Let her volunteer information about everything. However, I really think at some point you do need to speak with her about the future. Has she been diagnosed with dementia? If so, then you already know it will progress. At that point, if you’re in the dark about her finances, you’re pretty much sunk. She sounds like a sharp lady and she will eventually come to understand she needs to hand over st least one of the reins to you.

Good luck. Come back any time.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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Thank you all for your suggestions. Great stuff! One item I did not mention was that my mother was a CPA for 30+ years prior to retirement. This makes it even harder since she was always an expert in managing money. In her mind, she thinks she still is an expert and takes offense to the idea that someone else needs to start managing her money. But, the reality is, for some reason.....whether it is forgetfulness and/or lack of the ability, certain bills are just going unpaid. I know she has paid on-line for years. But, she is now losing her ability to navigate a laptop. Again, so sad since not too long ago, she was the person I would call if I had a windows question. I just have to decide how to approach it without her getting upset and paranoid. In those cases she tends to turtle up and block us out (maybe due to embarrassment). We are actually dealing with that on the medical side. Since we started asking too many questions, she no longer fills us in on anything relative to her health. We are trying to avoid the same with her day to day chores and finances.
Thanks again!
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Reply to SoninPA
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We asked our family lawyer and CPA to speak to Dad in their conference room. Dad was barely well enough to go. I drove him and his nurse to the meeting. It was very business like and they made Dad feel important so he listened and agreed with these gentlemen. He never would listen to me or my sister like that.
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Reply to yogagirl
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Sonin, there is no one easy answer to this. Dementia has many twists and turns. Families have to approach it differently. But in any case one way or the other you need to get control of the money before it’s all gone. And don’t use your funds.

In my case, Dad always did the bills and all things financial. As his dementia began he turned it over to mom. She did ok for a little while but it became too much. She would get the bills all mixed up with junk mail. I would visit, sort the mess out, write checks and she would sign them.

I then went to the bank, got all the paperwork to be a co-signer on the accounts and told mom and dad THIS IS JUST IN CASE ANYTHING WOULD HAPPEN AND I HAVE TO PAY YOUR BILLS. Much to my relief it worked. They signed all the papers.  I also had a poa which helped .

I slowly had bills changed to my address. We told Dad that mom was still doing the bills. In addition, I tracked down all the funds, pensions, insurance, tax info etc over a couple of years. And it’s a good damn thing I did as neither of my parents could reason any longer.  Mom resented the fact that I was taking over but after the garbage service stopped and the power company sent some warnings about cut offs she got with the program.

Don’t be afraid to fib and cajole a little. Or in my case, a lot.  No harm done. Your trying to save the farm and keep the ship afloat here. Do what you have to do.

And yes, my folks barely escaped some major scams. It just takes one to wipe them out.
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Reply to Windyridge
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I wrote checks once a month and provided a spreadsheet, what went in/out. I let the account owner sign all checks that way, they knew what was coming and going but I still complied with payment arrangements.
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Reply to tacy022
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If Mom is still fairly cognizant of what’s going on, I wouldn’t do anything behind her back. If she’s still maintaining her accounts and paying some bills, she needs to know if you are arranging automatic payments and when those funds will be withdrawn. Not knowing can result in her account being overdrawn and cause her even more confusion. Not to mention she will be royally teed off at you. I would be. You’d be giving credence to her accusations that you’re messing with her money.

Wouldn’t it be easier to approach her in a non-confrontational way and ask to help? You can sit with her and help her pay her bills. Maybe she’s self-conscious about her condition. I understand that. But at some point she needs to face facts. Explain that when she fails to pay the cable bill and they suspend her service, it costs money to have it reconnected. Be frank, but be kind. Explain how much easier it would be on everyone if you were on her account.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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SoninPA, my Dad was of clear mind when he decided he didn't want to learn how to pay bills as that was my late Mom's chore. So he was more than happy to give me that job... oh great, thanks Dad. Well, I was his financial Power of Attorney.

So I took Dad to his bank and we spoke with the Branch Manager who guided us on how to set up a checking account which would have both of our name's, thus I could now sign checks for Dad's bills. That way I could also make sure his checking account balances were good.

Then I found all of Dad's bills and had those bills forwarded to my house. Dad's bank statements still went to this house so if he wanted to check over the statement he could. If I needed to see a statement, I could easily print one on-line from the bank.
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Reply to freqflyer
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If you have her banking information (routing number and account number) and the account numbers for the various bills (utilities, cable, etc), you may be able to go on the website for the services and have the bills automatically debited from her checking account. You may also be able to call her bank and put a hold or a limit on certain transactions, like wire transfers. With the POA, the bank may also allow you to have access to online banking for her account, so at least you can monitor the transactions on a regular basis.
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Reply to AlfredR
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