Some of my closest moments with my mother occurred when she trusted me to help her with her bills, check book and banking account. At first, I simply sat with her and went over the bills, made out the checks, and gave them to her to sign. A year later, Mom authorized her checking account as a joint checking account so that either one of us could sign the checks. In time, Mom was relieved and confident in turning over the entire process to me.
Money Matters Do Matter
When should you take over Mom or Dad’s checkbook? Money matters are intensely private. No one wants to infringe on a family member’s independence; yet, it is often through financial mishaps that you may become aware of changes in your parent’s memory and/or thinking.
When to Know When It’s Time to Step In
Identifying the Signs of Financial Loss of Control in Seniors
1. Difficulty counting change
2. Difficulty balancing a checkbook
3. Frequent late payment of bills
4. Confusion about banking transactions
5. Unusual or repetitive purchases
6. Accusations that others are stealing from them
7. Investing in “get rich quick” schemes
Offer Help, Not Criticism
Offer to help in a way that saves face for your family member. For example, “Gosh, it looks like you’ve forgotten to pay your gas bill. You’ve got so many other things to do. You know, there are some easy ways to take some of these chores off your plate.”
Take Advantage of Automatic Banking
In addition, a number of safeguards are available
- Set up auto deposit of Social Security and other retirement income
- Arrange for overdraft protection at the bank
- Initiate auto payment of bills &/or third party notification if a bill is not paid
- Consider a joint bank account
One Less Worry, Much Less Stress
At first, keep reassuring your parent that he/she no longer has to worry about the bills, and that you are making sure everything is paid. Very quickly, your parent will trust it is all in your good hands. This will give the two of you more time to simply talk and enjoy each other’s company without the burden of financial concerns.
Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Care Manager at Elder Connections