Should Family Caregivers Also Pay the Bills?

Published on:
Tue, 26 May 2015
By:
Barbara
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Providing care for aging parents with physical and cognitive challenges is an all encompassing and often overwhelming responsibility for many adult children. Meal preparation, bathing and dressing, accompanying their elder parent to doctor visits and managing prescriptions are just a few of the tasks required when providing this type of care. This can add up to 60-70 hours a week for some, and even more for others.

Many of these family caregivers also have jobs or are raising families of their own. For me, the question is whether these caregivers should also be responsible for managing the financial affairs of their elder parents. I believe the answer is “No”and here are the reasons why.

Three reasons to separate caregiving from financial responsibilities

  • Lack of time - Opening mail, reconciling bank statements, paying bills and maintaining a system to track financial obligations such as taxes, insurance, Medicare statements and other documents take a large amount of time and energy, which many caregivers do not have. Often, incoming mail begins to pile up and become an overwhelming task for caregivers who are already burdened with numerous other responsibilities.
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  • Lack of consistency – As a Daily money manager, I  schedule regular appointments with clients to review bank statements, pay bills and identify any suspicious charges or errors on receipts or credit card statements.Caregivers are so occupied with their other responsibilities that the financial organization is not a priority. This can result in penalties, late payments or errors in the financial paperwork.
  • Lack of financial expertise - I have found many caregivers to excel in their caregiving responsibilities. They provide the loving support and hands on care that many older adults and loved ones genuinely appreciate and depend on for their well-being. However, many just don’t have the financial skill set to take care of the finances and paperwork!  They realize that the mail needs to be opened and bills should be paid, but they don’t have a system in place, and may not know how to set one up.
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I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the many caregivers who provide excellent care for older adults and others. However, although they provide for the physical, emotional and social needs of their loved ones, they may not be the best suited to take care of the finances!   Older adults and other vulnerable individuals depend heavily on their caregivers for life sustaining care on a daily basis. Because of this, a caregiver who also has access to the finances can take advantage of this situation. Here is an example of what this can look like.

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Of course, there are many caregivers who do handle all the finances for their elder parents or other loved ones. If this is the case, then at the very least, there should be a 3rd party (another relative, bank associate, accountant or legal representative) available to provide oversight of all financial  and legal documents to make sure financial matters are being handled correctly.

This is the very least we can do for our aging parents and loved ones!