My Mom knows nothing about finances and refuses help. Any advice? - AgingCare.com

My Mom knows nothing about finances and refuses help. Any advice?

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My mom is 78. My dad died 3 year ago and my mom previously was not involved with finances or paying bills. Lately my mom gets confused and I am concerned about some of the financial decisions she is making and concerned about her making mistakes. As an example, she wrote me a check recently to reimburse me for something I bought for her online. She was supposed to pay me $341.75 and the numbers she wrote was $311.75 and the verbiage was $375.00. She also is planning to spend what I think is a ridiculous amount of money re-landscaping her front yard, but I guess it is her money to spend. During the landscaping discussions she asked my sister the difference between a pine tree and a palm tree, which concerns me just in that she forgot the difference, they are quite different trees! I've gently tried to discuss this with her but she is adamant that she can handle her finances. For the past two years she forgot to make her quarterly tax payments, thinking that somehow her tax accountant would pay them for her as if he has access to her checking account. She recently opened up new credit cards. However, it seems to me that nothing is glaring enough to get a judge to deem her incompetent and I don't think it should go that far. Ideally I'd just like to get her to let me help her by reviewing her bills and accounts. Thoughts? Thanks.

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Yes there are cognitive tests. At a minimum doc should give her Mini Mental Statue Evaluation (MMSE ), which id quick and should be easy, unless you're losing your brain skills. There are other tests to check for vitamin deficiencies, etc. If you want to get a brain MRI to tell you where her mental deficiencies are, or a PET scan. Don't settle for it's just old age, it's likely not. If she gets lost while traveling why would she be going on her own? How about a girls road trip instead? The finances are worse than you know, trust me on this. Why does a person need new credit cards for a trip? You don't have to argue with her...let the doc be the bad guy and you can sympathize with her, but tell her, maybe we should try what he says just in case, or something else you make up to accomplish a diagnosis and care. Not knowing to take care of estimated tax payments one year is understandable. Not taking care of it for two years means she doesn't understand it. Good chance she won't be able to live alone much longer. If she can afford it, AL might be good for her. But get a rein on her spending before she treats all the old gals to a shopping trip!
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By the way, my mother did work as a bookkeeper and used a checkbook for years, but still has had this happen to her. She has now had to relearn to write a check but she usually can't properly balance the checkbook, alone. I thought she had relearned that but found that that skill seems to come-and-go with her, so don't think because someone does it correctly once that they can always do it.

The other day, she did her math on the back of an envelope to end up with a little over $2,000 in her checking account after paying bills but mistook her own "$" sign for a one and wrote that she had $12,000 in her checking account ledger. She was pretty excited that she suddenly had so much money. I had to fix it, of course.
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My mom's doctor gave her some cognitive tests to figure out that she had dementia and they did somewhat involve some numbers, but I'm not certain which areas got tested and how well.

However, I am taking her back to the clinic to have her competency recorded. She was not happy about this, but my brother is questioning whether Mom had the ability to understand what she was doing when she signed the POA agreements with me and a lawyer suggested doing this. This will record which areas she really understands her decisions in.

What they'll do is ask her questions that I supply. I don't know if they try to adjust them or just use my list as a set of suggestions. In her case, they'll ask about whether she knows she owns a house, where it's at, whether she realizes she's trying to sell it, whether I'm supposed to be helping her with this. I'm not quite clear on this but I think I'm supposed to bring the questions.

In my mom's case, I think she does understand the stuff regarding the house. However, I think she might actually need a guardian over her finances rather than a POA. I'm not sure about all this, so I guess I'll find out the details when I take her in.

When I initially told her about this, she flat-out refused to go. She usually has a knee-jerk "no" response to everything like this. I explained a little of why she needs to go, because her decisions she makes, now, can be questioned if she really doesn't have the ability and we need to verify that she really does have the competence in the areas where she does have it. In our case, it's to keep my brother from constantly challenging and questioning this. And, for this reason, I told her I'd keep helping her with her memory exercises but that I insist she go so that my hard work as her POA won't be for nothing.

Eventually, after glaring at me for quite awhile, she grumped out an "okay" and we're going to go. What I'm trying to get at is that I'm not claiming it's easy to get them to go to these types of things.

Another note I should add is that my mother's primary care physician is at the local geriatric clinic, not just the internal medicine departments. They said this isn't an unusual request for them.
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I guess what concerns me most is not knowing - are we seeing the worst of her condition or are there bounced checks, checks written in the wrong about, it is hard to tell from this position.
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Thank you both. Are there cognitive tests a doctor will perform? Individually I feel she can explain everything (other than the check written wrong). It is true she never took care of finances and so it is understandable she was confused about taxes. She is taking a vacation soon and felt she needed different credit cards. We live in CA where there is a severe water shortage, hence the new water tolerant landscaping. BUT, she does get lost a lot when travelling somewhere new and there are other small things she forgets or gets confused about. I just don't want to get into an argument with her with her doctor as a referee. I would prefer him give her a test and it be more objective.
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Vegaslady has good advice.. My mom sounded pretty normal but I now realize she was making huge financial mistakes. In three years, this mother of mine who watched every penny throughout her life, suddenly ran through all her money and now doesn't even have enough for the most modest funeral. I keep thinking that, if only I knew then what you know, now, that I would have done something.

Unfortunately, what is that thing to do? Yours doesn't want help and insists it's her money. It took my mother bouncing checks and paying a bunch of late fees to be "mortified" into asked for help, as she'd never bounced a check nor paid a late fee in her life, previously. Even now that she has asked me for help, she doesn't understand that she can't throw it around and still pay her bills.

Strangely, and I'm sure this is true of others in her condition, she sometimes refuses to buy little things (today, refused to spend $1.99 for a bottle of clear nail polish to fix the hole in her lap desk), but is willing to give a relative a few thousand dollars for their rent. Except, of course, she no longer has it to give.
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Your mother is losing her mental capabilities. Get her to her doctor ASAP. Send over a list of the types of issues ahead of time (like pine vs palm tree) so the underlying cause can be explored. She sounds like she has some type of dementia. Go over her legal papers with her papers with her, POAs, etc. If she won't do that you have even more of a concern. If she is on meds she is likely messing those up as well as her finances. Don't dawdle on this, it's worse than you think.
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