Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Connecticut

Having the “Talk”

One of the most difficult times for any family is when they are faced with the sudden and permanent incapacity of someone close to them due to illness, such as a stroke or an accident. These situations are often complicated when the individual is also faced with legal and financial issues. Even if a senior is still competent to make major financial decisions, he or she may find it difficult to manage their everyday money matters. Their eye sight might not be sharp enough to read the bills, their hearing is impaired and they don’t understand phone calls, or it may not be easy for them to get around and simply go to the bank.

Talking about money is an uncomfortable and sticky topic.

However, it is important to ask your parent or elderly family member if they want help. It is ultimately their decision. You may notice that the senior is receiving late billing notices or phone calls requesting payments for everyday services. These could be the early signs that you need to ask them if they need assistance. Don’t be too “pushy”; all seniors want to be as independent for as long as possible. They should be comfortable with your involvement, so be careful not to over step.

Assuming you receive permission, begin by finding out where their financial records are kept.

Some keep important information in their wallet or purse including their credit cards, bank cards, insurance cards and business cards for doctors. Make two copies of the front and back of the cards and retain one set for you. Request their tax records to determine most of their sources of income. It is also important to not only determine their total monthly expenses, such as rent, cable, phone and utility bills, but also credit card and store accounts. Make a list of major suppliers or companies and account numbers along with telephone numbers to contact them, if necessary.

Automating some or all of their deposits and payments and other transactions could make it easier to cut down on the time you spend managing their finances.

It also helps to ensure that bills get paid in a timely fashion. Additionally, sorting out their various insurance policies including medical, automobile or homeowner’s policies can help them and you understand their coverage.

Problems are often exacerbated when a senior hasn’t prepared a document that authorizes someone to act on their behalf regarding financial matters. It may be necessary to prepare a power of attorney for finances. Meet with an attorney to explore what forms of authority best suit the senior’s needs and what limits, if any, should be placed on the power of attorney.

It is a good idea for you and the person in your care to familiarize yourselves with the basics of their finances. This will prepare you for a later time when you might need to take on greater or complete responsibility for them. Don’t wait until it’s too late; have the “talk.”

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