That checkbook equals independence

I still remember using my first credit card to buy clothes for myself when I was around 21 years old. I can visualize the pair of novelty socks that were going to look good with my “dressy” shorts. Yeah, I’ve never been that great when it comes to fashion, but I recall those socks as my first adult purchase on a credit card.

Q4HelpingParentsNow that I work with older adults on a daily basis and help them manage their day-to-day finances, I see how much that checkbook represents. I’ve included a video where I was asked about how someone should talk to a loved one about managing the money and when to recommend a Daily Money Manager.

I recall the frustration I felt when I watched my parents giving away money to a zillion charities they never had an interest in before … missing to pay the water bill … or being asked how you put a check into your checking account. Add to that the number of times my Mom lost her wallet just to fuel my concern … and aggravation. Dealing with numbers and following a multi-step process can be one of the first things you see failing in a loved one with cognitive issues. The consequences can be devastating to financial resources.

Every year, the National Council on Aging estimates more than $36 Billion is lost due to exploitation, fraud, and trust abuse. On a weekly basis, I meet with clients who are giving away money they need to pay for their care, paying for products and services they don’t use, and generally a disinterest in the implications of giving that money to people they never intended to assist.

However, before you tell your loved one they need to hand-over the checkbook, consider what that means to them. If you are concerned, you should start by spending the time to walk through the day-to-day finances with them — help them write checks and manage the cash flow. If you can’t do it, you should be able to find a Daily Money Manager in your area that can help on the website for the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

I hope you will consider how much your loved one has already lost, and don’t be to hasty to take away what might represent to them their last vestige of independence. Recommended. 

 

 

Decisional Capacity and Short Term Memory Loss

simple choiceI’m working with two older adults who have seemingly lost their short term memory and are unable to manage their calendars. They haven’t been diagnosed with anything more than mild cognitive impairment but since their kids aren’t local, I have been hired to help pay bills and manage the cash flow. What I keenly recognize is that they have the ability to make reasonable choices that align with former saving and spending philosophies, but they have just lost the ability to do simple tasks like manage or recall who they have paid and balance the checkbook.

As an adult child, knowing my parents could not manage simple tasks had me and my siblings petrified that they would become victims of fraud and scams. We intervened at different times on their behalf to turn back on the water, cancel a second predatory contract for some home repairs, and even close down extra accounts they just weren’t using any longer. However, now that I’m stepping in as a Daily Money Manager to help older adults manage their bill payments, cash flow, and general finances, I also recognize how valuable keeping them involved in the process is to their self-esteem.

While it’s much faster to just take something away and do it yourself, going through the mail, prioritizing and making bill payments together, allows the individual to retain the sense of independence that is lost when the checkbook gets “taken away.” By the time my mom turned over the checkbook to me, paying bills just caused her panic since she had lost her ability to understand the value of money and didn’t recognize that they could afford for the escalating costs of her care.

I hope if you are in the early stages of cognitive issues with a loved one that you can recognize that being able to make a decision and be involved is vital to the sense of meaning and purpose to the person you are helping. Keep it simple, and keep them involved as long as you can. Appreciated. 

A Different Degree of Elder Abuse

checkbookA few years ago, when we didn’t yet have a diagnosis, but knew something was wrong with mom and dad, we were concerned that our parents would be victims of elder-abuse scams. We had a major incident when my mom hired two contractors for the same work, one of which charged 5 times a reasonable rate for the work that needed to be done. Thankfully, we were able to get the contract cancelled in time.

While we wanted our parents to hand over the checkbook and let us help them, my parents refused and were a little angry that we even suggested such a notion. I now understand that keeping control and having a sense of meaning and purpose is not just important to recognize, but a monstrous roadblock for many to overcome.

As my parent’s were losing control of the world around them, the one thing they could do was pay bills and send off donations to the growing number of charities asking for money through the mail. I started to notice that my parents were making a LOT of donations to new charities. For years, they had always done the donations once a year, after doing checks to validate the varied non-profit organizations and their finances. Now, I was watching weekly mailings to new charities I had never heard of.

It seemed that the charities that got money, freely shared the names of donors with others. The mail seemed to grow with more requests for donations. Most of the mailings showed up and looked like bills, or had language on them to the effect of “Here is confirmation of your pledge.”

When I asked my parents, they couldn’t even tell me what most of the charities did. When I asked why they were changing their annual donations to monthly, they brushed off my question.

I still feel like many of these charities took advantage of my parents. They seemed to count on the fact that my parents wouldn’t remember they didn’t “pledge” funds and in a way, coerced them into donating.

I fought with my godly self because many of the charities were indeed well run and regarded and doing good work. But my logical, righteous self grew angry over the ploys and tactics they were using on my parents.

Eventually, the checkbook did get turned over. As I was cleaning up some old files, I came across an old register and more than half of all the checks were to charities. While I still carry a bit of rage over the tactics, now that mom is unable to manage to even sign her name, maybe a few hundred dollars every year to these charities was worth the sense of independence it gave my mom when she could still write a check. Conflicted.