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Managing money with your senior loved one

BHC finance main 1119.jpgCaregivers don’t want to appear overbearing or conniving by asking senior loved ones about finances. Seniors don’t want to admit that they may need day-to-day help or that their financial acuity may not be what it once was.

But there are many financial topics that should be addressed with parents or other senior loved ones, not limited to long-term care expenses, managing household expenses, avoiding scams and whether or not their estate is in order.

When discussing financial matters, reassure senior loved ones that you are not trying to take over their life, or that you think they are incapable. It’s simply an offer to help because you love them and managing finances can be overwhelming for anyone.

Long term care: As we age, we can require more care, and more specialized care, as time goes on. Without planning, caregivers can end up shouldering a large part of these expenses. Long-term care insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid cover some costs. Talk about coverage for long-term care, other funding set aside for long-term care, and how to handle assets if they are needed to pay for care.

Avoiding scams: If you are worried that your loved one is the victim of an internet or telephone scam, express your concern and ask permission to help. Citing a specific example makes it about one incident, not “you can’t handle your money!” Discussing a specific scam can lead to a broader conversation about spotting and avoiding scams in the future. Make it clear that people of all ages, abilities and financial situations fall victim to scams every day – they are not alone.

Managing household expenses: When someone has been handling their household for many decades, it can be difficult to admit that they need assistance. If you see bills going unpaid or that your senior loved one is not taking care of basic needs, such as groceries, it may be time to offer help. Don’t approach the situation as a matter of incompetence. Empathize with how much things have changed when it comes to expenses and paying bills. Offer to sit with them once a month for a marathon bill-pay session – with coffee and snacks. Or, offer to set up a budget, create an account specifically for household expenses and to handle paying bills online – with frequent reports to them about how money is being spent.

Estate planning and wills: Talking about a loved one’s will is difficult for everyone involved. Caregivers might fear they appear greedy. Parents may not want to face the inevitable end. But it’s important to ensure that their paperwork is all up to date and that their final wishes will be executed. Consult an attorney to help avoid some of the pitfalls that can go with inheritances and gifting money or property.

Talking about finances with an aging parent is an ongoing discussion - and an emotional one. Take things slowly so you all can have time to adjust to your new roles. Admit that it is difficult for you, too, and let your senior loved one know that you are in it together.