Dear Mary
Managing Dad’s Finances

Dear Mary,

I am constantly amazed at how hard and complex taking care of my elderly Dad is. Not only do I take him to his appointments, help prepare his meals and maintain his home, I also help keep track of all his pills and bills. This seems like a full time job, even though I already have a full time job. My question is about money. I know I spend some of my own money on things for him and forget to ask him for the money. He is not short on money, I am just not that organized. Any suggestions will be appreciated.


Shawn


Hi Shawn:

As family caregivers, it often also means that we become the family bookkeeper and financial planner. We often assume multiple responsibilities, including control of an elderly loved one’s finances and legal affairs.  I remember when I first started paying my parents bills and managing their accounts.  I too was overwhelmed with the whole thing and wanted to make sure that nothing was missed, forgotten and mostly done properly.  Family caregivers need to find simple systems that work and can be managed easily and accurately.  As caregivers we may need to develop new skills and new systems that work for us.

Here are some of the ways that I became and stayed organized around the issues of their finances:

  • I met with their bank manager and reviewed their accounts and even consolidated accounts.
  • I added their household payments (such as taxes, utility bills) to my on-line bill payments – clearly showing that these accounts were actually their accounts.
  • I set up payments for their bills through a new account and transferred their funds to it as required
  • I paid for virtually everything for them with my credit card.  This helped me to track all expenses monthly and it eliminated the responsibility to keep and log paper receipts.  It was easy at the end of the month to add up the items on my credit card that were related to them, so that I could re-reimburse myself.  I also made a simple rule for myself that if I had lost or forgotten some paper receipts, then I could not re-reimburse myself.  Putting everything on the credit card really helped me here.
  • I put all their pharmacy related purchases (including prescriptions) on my credit card.
  • I bought a simple binder with sections to help keep paperwork organized.  It held copies of their annual tax returns etc.  It was important to have a binder as it was portable and I often took it to meetings.
  • I hired an accountant to do their annual personal taxes.  This took the responsibility off me and I knew it would be done correctly.  I was so happy to just hand over all their paperwork.

I think that the key to staying organized is finding a simple system that works for you.  Although it was not the case in our family, I do hear of stories where siblings do not trust one another and there are often situations of the POA abusing financial privileges.  Finding a system to track and record all expenses will be keys to staying sane and proving one’s honesty.  My final suggestion to you is to work with a financial planner or an accountant to help get and keep you organized.  They are professionals at doing this and can make this part of caregiving easier and somewhat routine.  Don’t try and do all things related to caregiving on your own, this is one area where seeking the help of a professional will pay off.

Mary

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About Mary Bart

Mary is a daughter. She also Chairs our charity. Mary has also held Director roles on three other boards, most recently with The Palcare Network of York Region.

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