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Pandora's avatar

How do you help an elderly person manage their finances and set a secure way for them to see where their money is going?

Asked by Pandora (30293points) October 17th, 2020

So my inlaws are going to be moving to our state and my husband will be managing the selling of their home and purchase of a new home and once they are closer they want him to handle their finances.

The big problem with this is they never remember what they spend money on and how much they have left. No matter how many times you tell them. I suspect dementia. His sister uses to manage their finances and they kept always accusing her of stealing their money. I don’t want to see my husband go down this rabbit hole but he says it will be different. I think it will not be different and this will only add stress and the family will think maybe he is stealing from them.

His dad even accused the bank of stealing his money one time because he only had 25 dollars left in his saving. His wife said he probably withdrew the money months ago because he liked to take cash out and hide it in the house and would forget where he put it.

I suspect he understands his memory is not what it was but at the same time he gets very cross with people and is quick to blame them when he may have lost or misplaced things. Especially money.

I’m all for my husband helping but my husband has health issues that get worse when he’s stressed. So I’m hoping someone on fluther has been in that situation and has found a way to make everything go smoothly. Where he can see where the money is going but not have direct access to the money except for what he withdraws.

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9 Answers

Inspired_2write's avatar

Create two separate accounts,
One for bill payments.
The other for leftover cash to peruse ( but set limits per month).
By having everything arranged through the bank with all transactions documented.. should be no problem.
Alos if one spends more than the other have separate accounts for cash only in each name.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

My mother has dementia. We went through this, where we wanted to guide her finances without taking away her independence or sense of control. In retrospect, it only worked when we finally did take total control.

As @Inspired_2write writes, set up an account for spending/mad money/whatever. They get an allowance. They have total discretion with that money. Another account can be used for paying bills. The money manager takes care of that.

Schedule a monthly sit-down with the parents to review where the money went.

If your sister-in-law is able and willing to be involved still, include her. You want transparency. More eyeballs on the accounts keeps everyone honest and on their toes. I’m talking about both dishonesty (unlikely) and plain dumb errors (more likely).

YARNLADY's avatar

Good advice so far. Also tell them you need receipts for every purchase for tax purposes. Ask for receipts often. My husband manages accounts for two other couples, and it’s very time consuming.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

RE: “The big problem with this is they never remember what they spend money on and how much they have left.”

I went through this today myself. I had a $1K payment from a client last week and was POSITIVE it was not showing in my checking balance.

Then I added up my spending – $110 groceries, $150 bills paid, $100 clothing, $120 Amazon stuff, $300 moved to housing account – $780 total. My $1K boost is reduced to $220.

Lesson: If you can get the in-laws using a debit card, it’s really easy to track the spending. Second choice is checks. You will have to record who the checks are written to.

Pandora's avatar

Thank you all very much for such good advice. If you have any additional advice on how to deal with people with dementia, I am all ears

.@Call_Me_Jay, a monthly sit down may not always be possible because they will still be 4 hours away from us. They wanted to move to a city where most of the family live. Their siblings and cousins and grand nieces and nephews. We live 4 hours away and my daughter lives an hour away. They have a ton of family to help with other needs there just not financial because my FIL will only trust immediate family and that trust is even tentative.
But it did give me an idea of writing out a physical monthly account page of bills and when they were paid and the start of the amount in that account and how much is left in that account at the end of the month and transfer amount to their separate accounts (prepaid card).

Then I can have them use a prepaid card that we will put money in weekly to monitor their spending and gauge how much do they need for food and incidentals. This way if they should lose their card we can always cancel it and have it replaced and they can’t overdraft the card or if it’s stolen they can’t lose physical money.
If any of you see any flaws or know of any ideas to improve on my idea, let me know.

Two things make it difficult. We aren’t that close to them. I mean closer by 7 hours and being in the same state at least will allow us to do more for them, but they are not computer savvy.. And physical paperwork will be easier for them to review and keep. My husband manages his brother’s account but he can see what gets done on his account and what gets paid without us having to tell him.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

After reading your ideas, I just wanted to add a monthly “sit-down” can be over the phone.

Communication is communication. Keep talking.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t like debit cards. The way I understand it they have less protections. I guess if you are filling the card with small amounts of money that could work though. Or, if the debit card is tied to a checking account with not a lot of money. The positive about a debit card is you can see everything in one checking account rather than looking up a separate credit card account. Although, credit cards can give you cash back or other benefits.

I would give them a credit card with a limit, give your phone number to the issuing bank for any suspicious charges. Make sure the credit card has zero fees for trying to charge over the limit.

I assume your husband will have POA?

Send your in-laws the statements every month so they feel everything is transparent. In fact, tell them up front how you will do things and involve them in the plan so they are included and buy into the plan. Right the plan down on paper if they are getting forgetful and put it on their fridge or wherever they would naturally look. Let them know they or you can look up their account online anytime they have a question.

You and your husband have to decide you will be patient and cooperative up front. This will help you and your husband. Letting someone else have control of one’s money is scary, even when you are fairly sure you can trust the person, put yourself in their place. You have to be in the frame of mind that there will be times they forget, there will be times they are worried about money not accounted for, there will be times they ask you the same thing twice, there will be times you have to stop what you are doing and help them. Just decide now you want to be helpful. Obviously, your husband does want to do this for them, to be helpful, but he has to be ready for it to be more time consuming and more frustrating than whatever he is assuming.

I would set up utility bills, insurance, and whatever else you feel is very secure on auto-pay.

If they get receipts for everything they buy you can make an envelope for them and tell them to put the receipts in it. If they purchase a lot you might want a separate envelope for each month of the year. Someone above mentioned using the excuse of tax breaks, which is true, especially medical receipts, but also if your in-laws are starting to realize they are getting forgetful they might be easily on board with the idea. The receipts don’t have to be in any order if it’s just one month in each envelope. Just stuff them in the envelope, you are only going to bother looking at it if a question comes up. If not an envelope a small open box might be more convenient sitting right on top of a counter, even a shoe box.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie I use a prepaid card through my bank and I get a daily update every day. and they let me know right away when a purchase has been approved. I use it for online purchases mostly so my checking/debit card isn’t exposed to hackers. I use the Go card . It works just like my regular bank card only I have to actually transfer money into it unless I set it to automatically do it. It would be easier for us to see how much money they spend and if something fishy is happening and not worry about it affecting their bank account.

I only keep a small amount on there at a time. It’s also great to use on those accounts that want you to automatically renew yearly. If you don’t have the money to cover the cost of the renewal you get a message from them saying the amount was denied and they need you to approve it. I hate things that automatically renew. Especially when they try to renew a month or more ahead of time. After a year you may not want their service. Not to mention by not automatically paying, sometimes they lower the price and have a special sale for you because now they know you can walk away and find someone else. Hate automatic payments. It’s a scam.I agree with the rest. Thank you. I am already doing some reading on how to deal and treat people with dementia. They had some handy tips on how to deal with elderly people who may have dementia. Mostly , I think my FIL has it worst because he can easily spin and become angry and fixated on what he’s angry about. He’s not dangerous but he can certainly make everyone temper rise in a hot second by behaving in an ugly manner even if all you are doing is helping. . My MIL is easily managed by giving her something else to focus on that makes her feel useful and her anger can go down to a simmer.

My husband is helping them move and only had 3 weeks to get their home fixed for selling moving and packing, They want to move to a smaller home but don’t want to be rid of anything. There have been numerous blowouts. A few times my husband just wanted to pack and leave but he didn’t because he knows they need to be away from there.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora Sounds like you have a lot of it figured out, which is great. Thanks for explaining about the card you use for internet purchases, my parents might like that idea even now. The problem is you don’t build credit with it, but they won’t care about that. They won’t bank online, so I would need to move the money from my own account, or something automatic as you say. Hmmmmm. I don’t take care of their finances or bill pay, but I know they are afraid to do internet purchases.

The only thing I would add is if their sleeping pattern is very different adjust to theirs for conversations. Often times elderly people get more forgetful and belligerent in the evening (it’s called sun downing) but my aunt who I took care of all of her finances and savings the last 7 years of her life) slept until noon and was up til the wee hours of the night.

Taking care of my parents I can anticipate will be much harder than taking care of my aunt. I am triggered into a fight with my parents very easily, especially my dad. It’s very stressful for me. Trying to stay calm is the most stressful part, I feel like I am being run over by a truck, it literally feels physical at times, not just psychological.

Fighting back (for me) actually feels better in the moment, because otherwise it feels like letting someone abuse or take advantage of me. Then I feel badly afterwards if it came to blows. That’s why I need to try my best to be in the frame of mind that they don’t want to hurt me, they are going through a very difficult time. It’s very hard. I didn’t have that with my aunt, she didn’t say things that upset me like that, she just had typical frustration from her situation.

You say they don’t want to get rid of anything, can you take some of it? Or, if your husband has siblings. Or, is it just a bunch of sentimental little things that need to be thrown out? I regret not taking my grandmother’s dishes and some more of my grandfather’s paintings. They had a piano that I also think maybe I should have kept. My aunt had one piece of furniture that I loved that everyone else in the family thought was ugly, I wish it was in my house. If I had lived closer I think I would have all of those things right now.

Their things are all they have left that feels normal in their daily life, and if they are losing their memory, what feels familiar and full of memories is their old things. Anyway, things can be very emotionally difficult to part with. I know they have to get rid of some stuff, but the process is very hard for some people. You could pay a professional organizer to help them. It might help them and your husband.

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