When is it time to take over your parents finances?

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My mother is 87. She use to be as sharp as a tack. Three years ago she had a Heart attack, Had open heart surgery and had a stroke either during or right after surgery . The docs aren't sure.


Three weeks ago the electric company came to the door. Said Mom was 2 months past due. In the 63 years my parents lived here they have never been late on any bill. So, I let that one slide.


This morning as I was dealing with the service guy from AT&T at the house, Mom says there is someone at the door. I replied "no mom its the AT&T guy. Don't worry. So I opened the door to prove my point and there was this big burly guy from the Water department and a lady dressed in casual business attire at the door. They came to collect some money or they were gonna turn off the water. Holy sh*t, I had them wait outside and told mom who it was.. She said she paid it but couldnt find it in her check register.


The last check record she had was in April. They are here to collect for April thru June. So then Mom said that she mailed it and it musta got lost. I told her if she mailed it she would have recorded it in her check register. Then she blamed it on never getting the bill. That may be so but I doubt it. Never happened before. This is two times in a month that we have had people coming to the door to collect.


Now besides these two incidents she has overdrawn her bank account twice now. Once in 2017 and again just last week. the part that makes me ill is that she does not have overdraft protection but since her SS check is automatically deposited I guess BofA uses that like a savings account. So all these little $5.00 and $10.00 donations that she makes get paid but with a bank fee of $35 a pop. OMG!


Now the only thing my mom seems to look forward to is the mail. She cant wait for it to come so she can look thru every little piece thoroughly. Plus she thinks she is going to win the PCH sweepstakes.


I counted up the number of charities she donates too and I made a spread sheet. Ready for this? Eighty.


(80) Eighty different charities. She will send a check to anyone who asks. I'm not kidding. The thought has crossed my mind that maybe she is trying to buy her way into heaven. She's even had to dip into the Family trust to balance her own account out. I tell you my Father is rollin in his grave right now. She's buying all kinds of crap from PCH as well. Then if she doesnt like it I gotta run it back to the post office. (this happens quite alot. She thinks she'll be reimbursed for the shipping back and she won't be. I had to argue with her about that. She insisted to me that they will. But they won't.


So far her charity contributions equal the amount of one months SS check. so that's not bad and if it makes her happy. I cant get too p*ssed off. It's just that I feel they are taking advantage of her. Yesterday I found one that said add us to your estate. I'm like Oh h*ll no....


I told mom I'll be more than happy to take her shopping and she can buy some half way decent things that she wants instead of buying from PCH, but she wont go. I think its just hard for her in her condition and in a wheelchair to do that sorta thing anymore. I feel so bad for her.


I'm her full time, live in caregiver. And I still want her to feel some independence. But it's scaring me about the knock on the doors wanting payment. and the notices from the bank that she's overdrawn.


What do you think I should do. Wade it out a little longer or rip the last bit of her independence away from her?

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Most utilities have a service for seniors by which another person can be notified when a bill is overdue. I would encourage you to sign up for this. Are you certain that the folks who showed up were actually from the utilities and not scam artists?

Sadly, your mom is spending her money unwisely. She may have vascular dementia. Has she been evaluated for that?
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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KrazyKat Aug 7, 2018
Dear Barb, Thank you for your answer. I don't think she has been evaluated for vascular dementia. I didn't even know there was such a thing. I'll look into that.
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Your mom's utility bill and phone bill needs to be on auto-pay from the bank on-line with you getting the bill via e-mail.

I hope you have durable POA for her. It is time to take over the finances for she is not competent from what you say in your story.
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Reply to cmagnum
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She can no longer keep track of what she has paid.
Be sure to take the mail to the post office for her.
Tell her there have been reports of thieves removing checks from mail boxes, and that is why the water bill was unpaid. You will offer to take her checks direct to the post office, you are going anyway.

The utilities and phone companies have 3rd party notifications to family when a bill goes unpaid. Sign up.

Take her to the SS office, let them know she almost had her utilities turned off. They will assign you as Rep-payee and you will at least be fully in charge of those funds. She will not be able to have access any longer, you will be required to spend her money on her only, and keep it separate from yours.
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Reply to Sendhelp
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I have experience with multiple elderly relatives having these issues. The last sentence you wrote seems to indicate you are thinking of it as an either/or situation, but have you considered there's a middle ground? Instead of completely taking over, perhaps you could sit down with her and work together on her finances. You may be completely taking over the finances, but if you you involve her with the work, she will feel more respected. I asked one relative "Do you think Bill Gates is writing a check for his electric bill? No, he has someone do that for him." This is how I got them to buy into me being their assistant. You have written a lot of things and I will try to address each one. With regard to the late payment of bills, have you considered setting up automatic payment arrangements for all of these bills. If you do that you won't have people at your door ready to shut off the water, but the bill will still arrive and she can look at it all she wants. With regard to the charities, I have seen this problem before. Have you shown her the spreadsheet, so that she can see what she's actually doing. Perhaps if you sit down with her and ask her to pick out her top five charities that she can support. Then ask her to figure out how much she wants to give each of them for the year. Make a chart and post it where she can see it. The chart reinforces the idea that these are the charities you're supporting and not everyone who calls you asking for money. It might help if the donations are made on a monthly basis with you helping her write the checks. Then you put mark on the chart that the donation was made. When you do this you're involving her in the decisions as to what is happening with her money, but at the same time you're providing guidance. With regard to Publishers Clearing House I can tell you that they are the bane of my life. Every month I would go over with one relative how much she spent at Publishers Clearing House. I would ask her what she acquired for that $100 she spent. After a year in which she had spent a total of $1, 200, I called Publishers Clearing House to discuss the matter. When I told them how much she had spent with them in the past year and how she was buying things that she already had etc, they agreed to stop filling her orders. What they said was that when she placed an order, they would not mail the product to her. If she called them and said Hey where's my order then they would know that she was in enough of her right mind that they should continue to do business with her. This worked, since she never received any additional items. I had a problem with another relative who was ordering things from QVC and HSN. Everything she ordered, and I mean everything, she wanted to send back. In this case the relative was able to walk and had access to transportation services. Because they were able to do these things, I told them if you want to send it back do it yourself. I could tell they were motivated to get their money back rather than just keep the item so this worked. I think the underlying problem you have here is that your relative is bored. If they don't have other interesting things to occupy their time then they watch QVC and order things or obsessively go through the mail and send money to every charity that calls. If you can find some ways to occupy her time, some of the problems may go away. Is there a senior center or Adult Day Care where she can go to enjoy herself? In general it helps to try to come up with multiple possible solutions to a problem, and then just keep trying things until you find what works. I know it's hard when you're in the midst of it. Please be sure to take care of yourself first. I recommend that you read the answers to other people's questions, not just the answers you get to your question. There is a wealth of information on this site please take advantage of it.
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Reply to Toadhall
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From everything you stated, it is definitely time for you to take over her finances or supervise her when she pays her bills.
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Reply to JColl7
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I’m sorry, but it is long past time for you to begin helping you Mom with her finances. You may have to start out “helping”, and gradually take over for her. You may find that your Mother will forget all about finances, bills, etc., after you relieve her of the responsibility.

You will find it very helpful, if not absolutely necessary, for your name to be added to the bank accounts. You should probably have an elder law attorney draw up a durable power of attorney for your mother. This will become necessary sooner or later.

Good luck,

Mike
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Reply to ask4mikie
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The most sensible thing to do is start paying the bills yourself. Getting the mail away from her would be a battle so the best thing to do is have the basic bills taken directly out of the bank account. I think a phone call or online that can be set up. Or write the checks and have her sign them. Since you live there at the same address as she does, you’re paying the household expenses.

My mother kept her own books for her business and household bills so when she got behind (like your mom) on the basic bills that was a big red flag. Then she started HIDING the mail. She became paranoid and hostile as well. So the bills are what got my attention first.

You've got to put a stop to buying crap off the TV. Can you use the feature on the TV that blocks certain channels? Also if there are credit cards confiscate them, pay them off and cut them up. Save one for emergencies. The one with the lowest interest rate. Set up a new checking account with a limited amount of money in it, keep her out of the main accounts, those are for her care and needs.

If your mom is friendly and not difficult to care for, it’s a little early for assisted living. Unless you’re worn out with things then shop around for a nice ALF. Take your time looking. Also getting POA would help you legally set up the financial processes that will come up. Do that first. Then after all your paperwork is in place (POA; will; etc) whatever comes up you’ll have the legal right to deal with it as your mom’s representative.

Lastly, a stay for mom in Geri Psych so her mental faculties can be assessed. A psychiatrist, social worker and nurses talk to her, administer tests and give your mom a diagnosis.

Good luck. How you present these changes is important. Elders can really dig their heals in and refuse to cooperate.
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Reply to HolidayEnd
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KrazyKat-
I'm in your boat. Mom donates to everything under the sun. I did the same thing, added them up on a spreadsheet. That was an eye opener. They are fine on money and it is a write off at the end of the year, for now. But I make it a point to tell them how much/how many they have spent on donations. She isn't often late on bills, but didn't happen to notice a missing tax form for taxes last year(oh, what FUN! Amended returns and cpa's and it isn't over yet!). She picks through the mail and grabs bills. And mostly ignores /hides the rest so I spend a lot of time on opening/sorting mail when tax time rolls around. I try to sneak in and grab old mail once a week if I can. They are very stubborn and refuse most help. And desperately do not want to be a burden.

If it gives your mom joy to give, ask her to pick one or two charities and decide on a monthly amount? Like her own allowance for Giving. But only after the bills are paid.

Then you can tell the rest of them to get lost. I remember there being an article recently about getting off the charity begging mail lists.
Hope that helps.
Sparkles
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Reply to sparkles87
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I think you need to take over  - don't let her have the check book any more.

just same as if she was driving and having accidents. its not safe any more.

each time she writes a check, those places may be sending her name and address to Another place. 

lot of organizations  asking for money are not always legit. and she may need that money down the road.

so just pick one good organization.
plus she's  just not able to do it correctly anymore. over drawing on her account etc./not paying bills on time

I know its hard to do these things(take over). but its better you do it NOW. before something bad happens. she is not going to start being MORE careful.

oh I know how it feels. when I first took over my moms check book it was pretty confusing. she was paying bills twice. and subtracting and adding all wrong.
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Reply to wally003
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It's time to step in, and protect her. The forgetting to pay bills, & donations to numerous charities, not living within her means are big red flags! Look past the thought of removing her independence-but rather saving her from herself. She's losing the ability to make good choices..do whatever you can to make things better for her long term welfare & finances.
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