Starting Your Role As Caregiver
Caregiving and Financial Matters continued...
Phone and utility companies have special discounts and other services for seniors and the disabled: amplified phones, push-button phones, large-type bills, and so forth. Ask about what's available.
Keep track of your parents' finances, to the extent that they allow you to do so. Offer to help with bureaucratic problems and other details (like getting an insurance adjustment or renewing licenses) for which your parents might not have the patience.
Respect that most people consider money to be a private subject, and handle it gently. Sometimes, parents will open up about their finances; for example, if you mention your own concerns about retirement or estate planning. Ask their input on how they handled these matters.
Recognize that giving up financial responsibilities represents a loss of control for many older adults. Don't take over all at once; perhaps Grandpa only needs help writing checks for now. Take it slowly.
If you are in charge of your mother's finances, online banking will save you tons of time in bank visits and in being put on hold when you need to handle something. And you'll have an automatic record of every transaction.
Arrange for your loved one's social security, pension payments, and so forth, to be directly deposited into his bank account. It's a pretty simple process that the bank will be happy to help with, because it makes things easier on them, too.
Check your loved one's mail often to make sure outstanding debts are being paid, insurance premiums are up to date, and all business details are being handled.
"I knew it was really hard for my father to talk about financial issues, especially when it became clear that he might not be able to keep the house. We never really had a major 'talk' about it, where we sat down and ironed it all out. We did it in steps -- I'd bring up one part of it, we'd talk a little, then I'd suggest that he take a week to think about it and we could continue the conversation after that. It took a while, but it really made a difference in how he dealt with it."
To be removed from mailing lists if those catalogs are getting to be too much, write to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
Be sure to have copies of all health insurance and benefit program information that applies to your loved one. Make a list of all this information and indicate which policies cover various needs. Does one policy, not another, cover dental care? Do any of them provide for home health care benefits? Should you consolidate policies? A geriatric caseworker can help you make these decisions.
One quick way to find benefit programs for your loved one (or you) is to go online to benefitscheckup.org, sponsored by the National Council on the Aging. Fill out a confidential questionnaire, and get a list of local benefits or services to check into.